Trophy hunters David Berry; his sons, David Berry Jr. and Kyle Berry; and about a dozen others killed hundreds of deer in Missouri over a period of three years. After they shot the deer, they cut off and took the heads, leaving the bodies behind to rot.
“While there are some cases where poachers go after the antlers for profit, with this bunch it was more about the thrill of the kill itself,” Randy Doman, protection division chief of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), told the Springfield News-Leader.
The trophy hunters were arrested in August 2016, after the conclusion of one of the state’s largest investigations ever into the illegal poaching of deer. More than 300 charges were filed against them in state, federal and international jurisdictions.
Among the charges were using illegal weapons—like bright lights at night to temporarily blind the deer so they freeze in place, making for an easy kill—and cruising along in their vehicles and shooting deer from the roadside, which violates Missouri hunting laws.
The Missouri Conservation Commission revoked Berry Sr.’s and Berry Jr.’s hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life.
This fall, the two men were arrested again for violating their probation. Berry Sr. posted bond and is waiting for a revocation of his probation, while Berry Jr. pleaded guilty to taking wildlife illegally. On Dec. 6, Lawrence County Judge Robert George sentenced him to one year in the county jail. A week later, Berry Jr. also received a 120-day sentence from Barton County Circuit Court for a felony firearms probation violation.
The convictions were made thanks to tips provided to Operation Game Thief, a hotline sponsored by the MDC and the Conservation Federation of Missouri. The defendants had bragged to friends that they killed 1,200 deer, according to Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter.
As Berry Jr. serves his (much too short) jail time, the judge added an unusual sentence: the deer killer must watch the movie Bambi once every month.
Spoiler alert! In this 1942 Disney classic that horrified a lot of us as kids, when the young fawn’s mother hears gunfire, she urges Bambi to run away as fast as he can from the hunter and not to look behind him. “Keep running!” are her final words.
“The judge was kind of trying to get through to this guy, some kind of emotional response over the gravity of what he has done,” Trotter told the New York Times. “Something more than just sitting there for 12 months in a jail.”
Judge George told the Times he felt that Disney movies “always placed the viewer in a unique opportunity to learn life lessons about relationships with others and the effects of decisions.”
While this sentence would be rather appalling to someone who cares about animals, will it really impact someone like Berry Jr.?
I’m thinking that a much, much longer sentence than 12 measly months—especially considering that Berry Jr.helped perpetrate one of the worst poaching cases in state history—would be more appropriate and could serve as a deterrent to other poachers. When he’s released from jail, Berry Jr. should be required to volunteer his time caring for real, live deer in a sanctuary or wildlife rehabilitation center.
What do you think? Is sentencing a trophy hunter to watch Bambi over and over again a good idea? Sound off in the comments below.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 20 Dec 2018.