Free Minds & Free Markets

Pennsylvania Man Tries to Save a Deer's Life, Could Get Fined Instead

No good deed goes unpunished.

Screenshot via Facebook/John Stoll Jr.Screenshot via Facebook/John Stoll Jr.

A Pennsylvania man's unsuccessful efforts to nurse an injured deer back to health have drawn the ire of the state's game commission, who might fine him for daring to transport the animal to his home.

The story started Saturday at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Warrington Township, where five deer had fallen through an icy lake. For hours, John Stoll Jr. aided park officials, fire department personnel, and Pennsylvania Game Commission officers in the rescue effort. Three of the deer survived (one made it to safety on its own), and a fourth drowned.

The fifth deer, a pike buck, was brought up to shore, though it was badly injured. Stoll tells The York Dispatch that rescuers took it to the opposite side of the lake from where he and two game wardens were. Stoll quickly made his way to the other side of the lake and put the injured deer in his truck, believing the game wardens would have euthanized the creature or let it die. "I don't even know how far [the wardens] made it before I actually got the deer," he tells the Dispatch.

He had good reason to hurry. According to Pennsylvania Game Commission Press Secretary Travis Lau, there's "a good possibility the deer would have been euthanized...because deer are poor candidates for rehabilitation."

"As a rule they're not rehabilitated," Lau tells Reason, though he noted it's difficult to say what would have happened.

So Stoll drove the deer home and tried to save it. "Nobody said I couldn't take it," he tells the Dispatch. A series of Facebook videos show the deer in his garage, covered in blankets with its head rested on a pillow. But Stoll's efforts were to no avail. "We have some sad news," he says in a video posted to his wife Terri's Facebook page on Sunday. "Our main little boy—he did not make it."

Stoll later buried the animal, telling the Dispatch that he and his family "were so devastated." But that wouldn't be the end of it. On Monday, a game warden paid the family a visit. Stoll wasn't home at the time, but the warden asked his stepson questions. Later, the warden told Stoll over the phone that he might be cited. "He said it's unlawfully taking wild game from the wildlife and taking him home," Stoll tells the Dispatch. He says he was warned that he could receive two fines, one for $100-$200 and another for $400-$800.

What had Stoll done wrong? Speaking to the Dispatch, Lau explains that "all wildlife in Pennsylvania is protected—no one owns it." Speaking to Reason, he adds: "When any wildlife is rehabilitated, it's required to be done through a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Your average Joe can't just take in an animal and rehabilitate it."

Stoll acknowledges the law. But he believes he still did the right thing. "In the long run, I just feel like we gave the guy a chance," he tells Reason. The deer likely wouldn't have survived out in the cold, but "at least I gave him a chance."

Stoll has not yet been charged, according to a statement published today on the game commission's website. But "the situation remains under investigation," the release adds. And Lau suggests that Stoll might be looking at more than two violations.

This isn't the first time that government officials have taken the phrase "no good deed goes unpunished" literally when it comes to animals. In 2013, Washington Post reporter (and former Reason staffer) Radley Balko noted the case of Giggles, a baby deer who had been taken in by an animal shelter. Thanks to a state law banning wild animals from being adopted, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources killed Giggles.

Then there's the case of Tammie Hedges, a North Carolina woman who sheltered pets during Hurricane Florence, only to face criminal charges. The charges were eventually dropped, but only because the county was getting bad publicity.

Stoll says if given the chance, he'd "100 percent" make the same decision. "I'd do it all over again," he says.

Photo Credit: Screenshot via Facebook/John Stoll Jr.

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Saving deer is not a good deed. Awful, stupid animals.

  • H. Farnham||

    The Game Commission got this one wrong. For trying to keep a deer alive, Stoll should be fined for 'attempted damage/vandalizing of a motor vehicle', not for 'illegal taking of wildlife'.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    BUCS has hated deer ever since that day a deer ate his grandpa.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    I thought it ran over his grandma.

  • Arcxjo||

    Bucs hates Bucks. Can't say I fault him.

  • SIV||

    Saving deer is not a good deed. Awful, stupid animals.


  • Ray McKigney||

    He also rescues rats and cockroaches.

  • n00bdragon||

    Agree. I'd have stood on the shore and shot any of the hooved rats that managed to crawl out of the lake.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    The only practical difference between squirrels and deer is the size. Both are just mobile flea bags.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    A small group of deer holed up in a patch of trees and bushes in my father's back yard last winter. His backyard is about an acre of trees with some big bushes, but too suburban for coyotes and other predators. Plus I don't think they are too intimidated by his chiweenie.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    A small group of deer holed up in a patch of trees and bushes in my father's back yard last winter. His backyard is about an acre of trees with some big bushes, but too suburban for coyotes and other predators. Plus I don't think they are too intimidated by his chiweenie.

  • Agammamon||

    Stoll later buried the animal,

    Under some salt and pepper and potatoes and carrots . . .

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Seriously, what a waste of good meat.

  • Echospinner||

    There is a small lake where I live.

    Sometimes it freezes. It is not unusual to find a deer under the ice. Happens in nature.

    Sounds like this guy took heroic efforts and the animal did not make it.

    So what is the problem?

  • MollyGodiva||

    The problem is the deer suffered needlessly.

  • Echospinner||

    Heroic efforts.

    Only 5-10% of people who get CPR survive.

    You and I have retrospect. Makes it more difficult to make a moral judgement in real time.

    If the deer had survived against the odds it would be a different story.

  • Rossami||

    I suspect that if the deer could speak, it might have disagreed with that assessment. Or are you claiming that we are making human patients "suffer needlessly" every time we take them to the hospital rather than immediately euthanizing them.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's the earth that suffers needlessly when human patients are rehabilitated instead of being euthanized.

  • vek||

    At least with old people! Once people are beyond their working life, they really serve no useful purpose to their fellow man, but do still consume resources. Saving a 20 year old from a car crash might be worth it if they won't be an invalid for life... But saving 84 year old grandma, from a purely logical perspective, is a total waste. My dad has told me many times to just pull the plug on him if he ever ends up in a situation where he'll be physically or mentally borked for life... That may be a hard thing to do if it ever comes to it, but it is the logical thing to do.

  • ipsum||


  • Hank Phillips||

    First Responders™ have a code: if it's brown, kill it!

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    I believe the official wording is, "if it's brown, put it down", which is actually referring to what is, and is not safe to handle in the workplace.

  • FreeMktMonkey||

    I believe such a reference is in regard to toilet usage: "If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow!" Save water my friend!

  • SQRLSY One||

    See ...
    Brickbat: If at First You Don't Succeed
    Charles Oliver|Jan. 15, 2019 4:00 am

    If the private volunteer hadn't tried to help, the forces of Government Almighty were planning to kill it by running it over repeatedly with a truck!

    (Pre-tenderized road-killed venison I guess).

  • MollyGodiva||

    They would have shot it, which is an approved method to euthanize deer.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    That explains it. Cops can't discern the difference between a deer and a black man.

  • MollyGodiva||

    While they are law enforcement officers, the game officers are quite different then average cops.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    About twenty years ago, I got pulled over by a fish and wildlife officer. He didn't like the way I passed on the two lane highway we were both traveling. He made a big deal about how he didn't give tickets, and that he just sent people to jail.

    I laughed at him, then told him that I knew he didn't issue traffic infractions, since that isn't part of his jurisdiction and he couldn't. He then threatened to arrest me for criminal negligent driving (there is a lesser version in WA that is only an infraction ). I noticed that he was driving a regular cab truck and had some young chick riding shotgun, so he didn't have enough room to take me in himself. He was clearly trying to show this chick what a big man he was.

    I told him if he wanted to have me arrested to go ahead and call in the state patrol to come get me, and that I would be happy to explain my version of events, plus the complete lack of evidence to support a criminal charge. Figuring that based on the staties I've met before that they don't really have time for this idiot's horseshit.

    He proceeded to bluster for about a minute, and then backed down, as I knew he would. He was a sloppy looking fatass. The kind that the state troopers around those parts probably don't like all that much.

    He seemed pissed that he couldn't scare me, and that he really just had no choice but to let me go.

  • Wizard4169||

    I just love it when the Fish Cops get a little too full of themselves.

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    Or a dog.

  • vek||

    The difference is the deer will wreck your car, whereas the black man will STEAL your car. It's not that hard to figure out if you look up the stats!

    Also, deer have hooves, not Nikes.

  • Agammamon||

    Unless your a Canadian Mountie.

  • MollyGodiva||

    I work with a PA wildlife rehabilitation facility. Adult deer are not able to be rehabbed. They are too high strung to do well in captivity (even for a short while). Had the deer been brought to a game commission officer or wildlife rehabilitation facility, it would have been euthanized humanely. Instead he took it home where it suffered before it died.

    In addition caring for sick or injured wildlife is far more involved then just giving them food, water and a warm place, and thus requires special training. Taking home wild animals for care is never a good idea. The rules regarding wildlife rehab are written by experts who care deeply about the welfare of animals. He deserves his fine.

  • Reformed Republican||

    I agree that what he did was dumb, but I do not see why it is something that justifies a fine.

  • MollyGodiva||

    The deserves the fine because the broke the law which led to an animal suffering.

  • vek||

    So? Animals suffer all the time. I agree it was not the greatest idea, but if the silly thing had pulled through it might have been okay.

    Doing well intended, slightly dumb things still shouldn't be grounds for big punishments.

  • SIV||

    To discourage him and other assholes from doing this shit again.

  • DRM||

    A fine is silly.

    Taking him in to the hospital so his organs can be removed and donated to people who aren't brain dead is more than sufficient to correct the issue.

  • ||

    Would you really want a deer brain though? Would that kind of transplant even work?

  • 0x1000||

    Assert power or lose it, I guess.

  • Naaman Brown||

    My state's Wildlife Resources Agency discourages adopting wild animals because it is, in the long run over typical cases, not good for the wild animals. As a child I wanted to adopt a squirrel or a (descented) skunk as a pet, but did not understand the law and the reason behind it. Older, I get it.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "The rules regarding wildlife rehab are written by experts"

    No, the rules a written by politicians and bureaucrats who have no idea what they are talking about.

  • MollyGodiva||

    They are written by a committee of wildlife rehabbers, game commission experts and others in the field.

  • Rossami||

    And yet adult deer are found in zoos and in different circumstances have even been tamed as pets. Your blanket claim that adult deer are never able to be rehabilitated is not supported by evidence.

    Likewise, your definitive claim that the deer "suffered before it died". Maybe it did but that is not in evidence based on the information reported above. And your blind faith in the people who right our laws is utterly unjustified.

  • SIV||

    ^Strongly supports 3rd trimester abortion^

  • Arcxjo||

    Zoos raise them from fawns in captivity.

  • Mock-star||

    I agree 100% with everything you said up until "He deserves his fine."

    For what? He acted with no malice. Im sure he has learned his lesson and isnt a big risk of being a re-offender. By what metric does he deserve his fine?

    Kudos to you on the work for a wildlife rehab center though. Ive had contacts with the one in Somerset. What the state did to the one in Altoona wasnt right. (did that lady "deserve her fine" for attempting to save the eagle?)

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I think we can all agree that deer are a menace and should be eradicated from society. John Stoll Jr. is a monster was not punished nearly harsh enough.

  • H. Farnham||

    Sure, first they'll come for the deer and we'll agree and not speak up. Then they'll come for the Mexicans and then the Alex Joneses, and still, we won't speak up. Finally they'll come for the sexual deviants... and no one will be left to speak up for you.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Oh deer, I need a beer!
    John tried to save a deer.
    To save a deer, did try John,
    But the deer was far too gone.
    He tried blankets, and a pillow,
    From his mouth prayers did billow,
    But it was all to no avail,
    And the deer cried its final wail.
    On facebook, to his sorrows share,
    Naive, his high crimes did John blare.
    "All wildlife belongs to king!"
    With glee did the warden sing.
    "How dare you rehabilitate?
    That's exclusive to the State."
    Will John learn his needed lesson?
    That he wasted good venison?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||


    Better than anything Byron ever penned.

  • Juice||

    Your average Joe can't just take in an animal and rehabilitate it.

    But he did.

  • JFree||

    Well except for the dead deer part of the epilogue you're right.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    "When any wildlife is rehabilitated, it's required to be done through a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Your average Joe can't just take in an animal and rehabilitate it."

    Occupational licensing runs amok again.

  • MollyGodiva||

    Wildlife rehab is hard and legitimately requires specialized training, or else the animals will suffer and die. They also deal with endangered species and are on the front line in protecting the public from rabies. The licensing process is both needed and not overly burdensome.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Shut the fuck up until you can recognize humor.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Says a licensed someone who hates competition in both ideas and work.

  • 0x1000||

    "or else the animals will suffer and die"

    Ahh, good thing that whole "red in tooth and claw" thing has been fixed. I was wondering when the state would tidy that up.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A series of Facebook videos show the deer in his garage, covered in blankets with its head rested on a pillow.

    I think I found his second mistake.

  • $park¥ is Tuipa||

    Doing a good deed doesn't count unless you tell the world you did a good deed.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    No synthetic fibers?

  • LarryA||

    Making the deer lie down (unnaturally) on it's side, covering it with heavy blankets, and propping its head on a pillow is also Not A Good Idea. They aren't people.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Haven't you seen Disney cartoons?

  • Bearded Spock||

    "The fifth deer, a pike buck...."

    I'm not sure if this is a typo, or if it's Big City Joe displaying a John Kerry-esque ignorance of all things in Flyover Country, but since I am in the mood to indulge in some snarky condescending pedantic nitpicking I will assume the latter.

    The term is spike buck, a 1-2 year-old male deer with two single unbranched antlers on its head (as shown in the pic). They are also much more tender and tasty than the bigger bucks.

    You're welcome.

  • Arcxjo||

    Pike bucks can be left in the lake safely.

  • Sevo||

    Naaah. They eat the bass fingerlings.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "a good possibility the deer would have been euthanized...because deer are poor candidates for rehabilitation."

    You know who else is a poor candidate for rehabilitation?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    New Jersey politicians?
    Chicago politicians?
    Just about any politician?

  • 0x1000||


  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    *Thunderous applause*

  • Eddy||

    Too late, they saved his brain.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    "Oh sure, everyone wants to save Hitler's brain, but transplant it into the body of a tiger shark, and suddenly you've gone too far!"

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    That picture of the deer all tucked up in bed is the most surreal thing I have seen in 2019.

  • Arcxjo||

    In a WWE blanket. That's the most Pennsylvania thing ever.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    It's true. Not even It's Always Sunny could nail it like that.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    It's a heel of an idea for an episode though. They hit a deer on the highway and try and take care of it.

    That would be comedy gold. I can just imagine Charlie quoting bird law, with The Lawyer somehow becoming involved.

  • Arcxjo||

    So the Sheriff is literally coming after him for killing the King's Deer?

  • Longtobefree||

    It says the deer are owned by no one.
    Therefore it falls to the socialists to assume control of no one's property for the common good.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    In WA, the progtards tried to pass an initiative a few years back that would let activist groups sue on behalf of wildlife, or even forests, lakes and ponds.

    Seriously, I could not make that up. Fortunately as stupid as the western WA electorate has become, they're not quite that stupid yet.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    ...yet. There's always time for moar stoopid

  • Longtobefree||

    Just another example of the evil that social media causes.
    Absent social media; "deer, what deer? That fresh turned earth is where I am thinking about starting a garden"

  • Jerry B.||

    Sorry, but you tried to save a deer when only the State can save deer.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "A Pennsylvania man's unsuccessful efforts to nurse an injured deer back to health have drawn the ire of the state's game commission"

    We get to decide who lives and who dies around here, bucko.

  • ||

    I admire your tenacity.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Quit posting everything on Facebook.

  • Naaman Brown||

    To most today humanity is defined by accepting good intentions mean good results without question.

    Why is shooting a horse with a broken leg considered humane?

    Because it usually is.

  • LarryWilson||

    Sweet haysoos, I'm almost out of venison and this clown is wasting food.

    I had a chance to refill my freezer with the meat of a fresh roadkill mule deer yesterday, but since I'm a nice guy I offered it to a needy family from work first who snatched it up like it was the last TV on black Friday.

  • Bubba Jones||

    This far his punishment has been an entirely appropriate "don't do that again".

  • AER1972||

    Typical low life/ low IQ respondents to this article. I have noticed a real drop off in the intelligence on this site since it has been trying desperately to attract more progressives. The point of the article was to highlight the equal lack of intelligence within most state and local government bureaucracies. The inability of government to do the right thing when necessary or show a shred of common sense. So instead the comment section is filled with childish rubbish poking fun at the death of an animal.

  • M.L.||

    This guy must be mentally ill. The image of the dead deer nestled in pillows and blankets is just too much. The humane thing to do is take out your Buck knife and slit its throat.

  • Benjamin Styles||

    The reasoning is supposed to be that all animals belong to the public, but we live in a bureaucracy now, so what that really means is that all the animals belong to the state. Somebody needs to sue the Pa government and argue that citizens of the state can do things with wild animals because they are part of the state.

    That's the problem, Americans no longer see the state as being composed of the people. The government is now its own entity and we just happen to live underneath it.


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