Assateague Wild Horse Shooter Sentenced

A Maryland man convicted in connection with last year's shooting death of a wild mare at the Assateague Island National Seashore will pay fines and restitution and be banned from hunting on federal lands for five years.

Two herds of wild horses, divided into bands of two to 12 animals, reside on Assateague Island. Each occupies a home range: One herd, known as the Chincoteague ponies, resides on the Island's Virginia side, while the other herd resides on the Maryland side. A fence at the Virginia/Maryland state line separates the herds. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd.

In January 2011, a hunter discovered a wild horse carcass while participating in a scheduled two-day deer hunt on the Maryland side of the island and reported the finding to park rangers the following day. The hunt was part of the National Seashore's annual hunting program used to manage the park's resident deer population. Park officials determined that the 28-year-old mare had sustained a gunshot wound during the annual deer hunt and died almost immediately.

Park Service officials later charged Justin B. Eason of Easton, Md., with illegal taking of wildlife, use of a weapon that endangers persons or property, destroying living wildlife from its natural state, and knowingly giving a false or fictitious report. His father, John A. Eason II of Preston, Md., was charged with knowingly giving a false or fictitious report in connection with the incident.

Assateague Island National Seashore spokesman Carl Zimmerman said that on Feb. 10, Federal Magistrate Judge Victor Laws sentenced Jason Eason to pay $3,000 in fines and $2,000 in restitution. Eason was also ordered to serve 18 months supervised probation. John Eason was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for providing a false report to park rangers.

Both men were also banned from hunting on federal lands for five years. Both were ordered to enroll in and complete a hunter education program.

Neither Jason Eason nor John Eason were available for comment.

Assateague Island National Seashore Superintendent Trish Kicklighter said the judge's sentencing decisions demonstrate that the court is serious about protecting Assateague's wildlife and promoting hunter safety.

"We're hopeful that the case will serve as an example and encourage others to be more careful," Kicklighter said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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