BEAVER DAM (WKOW) -- A group of 15 people from the Beaver Dam area are accused of chasing, shining lights at, and killing wild animals with clubs and bats last spring in Columbia and Dodge Counties.
The Department of Natural Resources announced today that the suspects wrapped up their initial appearances on Tuesday in circuit court.
Conservation wardens received a tip from a concerned citizen this spring. The tipster told wardens about the illegal chasing and clubbing of wild animals, often raccoons and opossums, in rural areas of eastern Columbia and western Dodge Counties.
On April 4, wardens arrested several people who were chasing wild animals with spotlights and clubs. That incident resulted in a chase by wardens and landed Christopher Swanke of Beaver Dam in jail. He faces five counts of reckless endangerment and one count of attempting to flee an officer.
Following Swanke's arrest, the DNR started a lengthy investigation. That investigation resulted in 158 citations to the 15 suspects. The citations were for illegally killing protected wild animals, hunting without a license, hunting with an illegal weapon and unreasonable waste of a natural resource.
Ten of the people, all from the Beaver Dam area, facing alleged violations are:
Jason W. Adams, 18, Andrew S. Chapman, 17, Derek S. Fehling, 18, Matthew J. Haas, 17, Andrew L. Peterman, 18, Gary L. Spears, 20, Christopher J. Swanke, 22, Mariah N. Schepp, 18, Jacob L. Kleckner, 19 and Austin A. Tripke, 19.
The names of five other people facing charges are being withheld because they are juveniles.
Poynette area Warden Paul Nadolski said it was "disturbing" how the suspects, many of them friends from high school, regarded the killings as a game.
"They awarded points for the accumulation of dead animals of different species," he said.