In the middle of the night last week, eight deer were slaughtered along a road in the town of Milford.

A buck, several does and their fawns were shot. Some were killed instantly, others left for dead. One deer got away and has not been found.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials are questioning three people in connection with the deaths, but no arrests have yet been made.

Tim Card, an officer with the DEC, said the incident was reported around 6 a.m. Thursday.

The deer were taken to a lab in Delmar for examination. The bullets will be analyzed to determine the type of firearm used in the shooting. Commenters on our Facebook page had hoped the venison could be donated to local food banks, but because of the investigation, it cannot.

Milford resident Debi Cotten said one of the deer was discovered just beyond her hedgerow, and the seven others were found along a one-mile stretch of road.

Cotten’s property sits on the edge of a heavily wooded area, which she said is often frequented by hunters this time of year.

“The whole town is in an uproar,” Cotten said, adding she was unsettled by the incident and its proximity to her house.

“It’s frightening,” she said.

A herd of deer lives in the area between the Susquehanna River and Crumhorn Mountain, according to Cotten, and the herd frequently visits the woods at the edge of her property. Cotten said her husband, Ed, recognized the slain buck as one he had regularly encountered on his way to work.

Cotten said that her dogs began barking around 10 or 11 p.m. the night of the incident, which she attributed to a deer nearing the house — another routine occurrence on her property — but nothing further aroused her suspicion that evening. She said a neighbor’s daughter later reported waking to the sounds of gunshots around 2:30 a.m.

If found, the shooter or shooters could face penalties including fines up to $2,000 per deer and other punitive measures.

In a media release Monday afternoon, DEC officials reminded the public that shooting deer at night with the aid of a light is against the law, as it violates the principle of fair chase.

A deer’s pupils can dilate to nearly the entire length of the eye, resulting in the glowing-orb look of a “deer in headlights.” This extreme dilation renders the deer temporarily blind, and it will often remain transfixed for several seconds, leaving it helpless.

“There’s no point to it … it’s a horrible thing for sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike,” Card said. “It wasn’t a hunter. I really don’t know who would do something like this.”

Ryan Naatz, a hunter who lives nearby at Goodyear Lake, said in an email he “couldn’t be more disgusted” with the act.

“Sportsmen are nature’s greatest advocates and stewards and absolutely do not condone this,” he said.

We agree, whoever did this aren’t hunters, they are killers. We can see no motive other than the joy of killing. If the deer had been taken for their meat, we could almost understand it — not condone it by any means, but at least we would have a reason why people would slaughter a herd of deer.

The investigation is ongoing and DEC is asking anyone with possible information to contact the department at 877-457-5680.

We hope those responsible for this senseless act are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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