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Contact: Carl Zimmerman, 410-629-6071
Berlin, MD - Officials at Assateague Island National Seashore expressed satisfaction with a recent decision by the Federal Court in Salisbury, Maryland regarding the shooting of an Assateague wild horse by hunter Justin Eason on January 15, 2011.
The case was heard by Federal Magistrate Judge Victor Laws on Friday February 10, 2012. In his ruling Laws stated, "I'm of the opinion that a fine alone is not enough to protect the public and our natural resources". Laws ordered Eason to pay $3,000 in fines and $2,000 restitution for the horse and sentenced him to 18 months supervised probation. Eason's father, John Eason, was sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 for providing a false report to Park Rangers. Both were also banned from hunting on all Federal lands for a period of 5 years and must enroll and complete a hunter education and safety course as a condition of their probation.
According to Chief Ranger Ted Morlock the incident could have been avoided if Eason had followed one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety - always be one hundred percent certain of your target before pulling the trigger. "He put everyone out there at risk and destroyed an iconic symbol of Assateague through his irresponsible behavior". Morlock also noted that had the Eason's reported the violation immediately and not lied about it numerous times, the penalties would have been much less severe.
Superintendent Trish Kicklighter was pleased to see the case resolved. "It's gratifying to see the court system take the protection of Assateague's resources and hunter safety so seriously. We're hopeful that the case will serve as an example and encourage others to be more careful."
Kicklighter also noted the important assistance provided to Park Rangers by the U.S Attorney's Office, the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Maryland Natural Resource Police.
The horse that died was a 28 year old bay mare with the identification number N2BH. During her lifetime, N2BH foaled six times, and had eleven 2nd and 3rd generation offspring. In recent years, N2BH had been treated annually with contraceptives as part of a broader effort to maintain the size of the wild horse population at a sustainable level.
The horse was shot during a two day deer hunt in January 2011. The hunt was part of the National Seashore's annual hunting program that includes several gun seasons during the fall and early winter. In addition to providing a unique and very popular recreational opportunity, the hunting program is used to manage resident deer populations. Two species of deer are found on Assateague; the native white-tailed deer and the non-native sika deer, introduced to the island during the 1920s.
For more information about Assateague Island National Seashore, visit www.nps.gov/asis