Deer death by truck leads to illegal hunting charge

Port Washington, Wis. — A West Bend man faces a maximum $2,000 fine, six months in jail, and loss of hunting privileges for up to three years for allegedly intentionally running over a deer near Port Washington in April.

Michael A. Cox, 29, is charged with misdemeanor illegal hunting of deer for the incident.

On April 27, Cox called the Port Washington Police Department at 5:25 a.m. to report he had hit a deer. Cox claimed he was on his way to go fishing when the deer ran in front of his truck.

A Port Washington police officer was dispatched to the scene, where he reported finding lots of deer hair on the road and the dead deer. Cox indicated he wanted to retain possession of the deer, so the officer called the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department because that department carries tags for deer killed by vehicles; the police department does not.

A short time later, an employee from a WE Energies plant on the same road called police to report a security camera had recorded a truck driver who intentionally chased and hit a deer. The call was transferred to the police officer on the scene.

The officer then notified DNR Conservation Warden Tony Young and asked him to investigate the incident before a tag would be issued. The police officer went to the WE Energies location to view the tape, and said the recording was incriminating.

The video allegedly shows Cox’s truck stopping at a “T” intersection. The truck pulled forward, then backed up and stopped again. The driver flashed the truck’s bright lights, and in the foreground the silhouette of a deer’s neck and head can be seen. Eventually, the deer jumped and ran right to the left in the video. The truck turned in the same direction, stopped briefly, then proceeded and picked up speed. A few seconds later, the truck struck the deer and ran it over.

The officer reported this to Young, and then a passenger in the truck was interviewed.

The passenger said he was asleep and woke up when Cox stopped and pointed out four deer. The passenger said three deer crossed the road but they did not know where the fourth deer went. When Cox resumed driving, the deer ran out and the collision could not be avoided, the passenger said.

That story did not match the video version, and eventually Cox admitted that the incident was more intentional than not.

Young concluded his investigation, released Cox, and the case was turned over to the Ozaukee County district attorney, who filed the charge on May 8.

Young said the illegal hunting charge was issued even though the deer was run over with a truck and not shot with a firearm or bow.

“In Wisconsin, to legally harvest a deer we have seasons for that and approved methods,” Young said. “The definition of hunt is to take, catch, kill, or pursue a wild animal.”

Since deer are a game animal, an attempt to kill one is considered an act of hunting except in unusual cases, like disease control or euthanizing an injured deer. A vehicle is not a permitted weapon to hunt deer with, so running over a deer intentionally would be illegal hunting.

Young said this type of illegal hunting case in not common.

“For it to actually be caught on video, that’s another rarity,” he said. “A situation like that is pretty unique.”

Cox is scheduled to appear in Ozaukee County Circuit Court on June 4 to face the illegal hunting charge. He’s also scheduled to appear in Washington County Circuit Court on July 11 for a charge of fishing for trout without a trout stamp for an incident in that county on April 21. That charge has a potential fine of $182.50.

The Port Washington Police Department also cited Cox for endangering the safety of a person or property. Cox faces a possible $303 forfeiture for that violation.

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