BUTLER — TWRA Wildlife Officers working along the Appalachian Trail in the Cherokee National Forest near Butler charged a hunter with violations related to illegal deer hunting, then rescued a lost family pet in the same area.
Carter Co. Wildlife Officer Dennis Ward has documented illegal ATV tracks on Iron Mountain for several years, and while scouting out the area this year, he and fellow officer John Ripley also located several permanent treestands nearby. Last Saturday, they set out to investigate the illegal activity and after finding and charging a hunter, they also rescued a lost dog.
While investigating the illegal hunting activity, the officers located Dickie Tester, 66, from Hampton, who was deer hunting from a climbing treestand near fresh ATV tracks. Tester was not wearing fluorescent orange, which is required by wildlife law so that big game hunters can see one another while hunting. The officers also located fresh corn and a trail camera within about 20 yards of the treestand and discovered that Tester had ridden an ATV to his hunting spot that morning. The officers charged the hunter with failure to wear fluorescent orange while big game hunting, hunting with the aid of bait, and illegal ATV use on a wildlife management area. They also seized a Winchester .270 caliber rifle and a trail camera.
After dealing with the defendant, the officers headed off the mountain and found a dog standing on the trail that was not of a hunting breed but what the officers described as a “Golden Doodle.” The animal wore a collar bearing the name “Maggie,” that was exhausted to the point that she allowed the officers to place her on their ATV and transport her off the mountain. The officers also inspected the rabies tag on Maggie’s collar, which indicated that a veterinarian in Orlando, Fla. had administered the vaccination. They contacted the vet’s office to get the name and contact information of the owners and after a call, they learned that the owners were vacationing at a cabin in Butler and that Maggie had gone missing a few days prior. The officers met Maggie’s owners in Elizabethton who Officer Ripley described as “ecstatic” to get the dog back. They had been placing flyers around the area offering a $500 reward for Maggie’s return, which they also offered to the officers who declined but suggested that it be donated to a charity.