Two men from Strafford, New Hampshire, are facing wildlife and drug charges after an anonymous tip through “Operation Game Thief” led to an investigation and arrests by state conservation officers and local police.
On August 20, the NH Fish and Game Department received an anonymous call to the Operation Game Thief hotline. The caller reported seeing two men gutting a deer in the woods off Range Road in Strafford. Conservation Officers Justin Ferland and Ron Arsenault, along with officers from the Strafford Police Department, responded to the location and combed the area to look for evidence of an illegal deer kill. During their investigation, evidence of a marijuana-growing operation was discovered.The state and local officers immediately retreated from the area, and a search warrant was obtained for 43 Range Road.
Upon execution of the search warrant, officers recovered evidence of an illegally killed deer, meat processing materials, a .22/410 rifle and shotgun, along with 20 marijuana plants approximately six feet tall. As a result, the Strafford Police Department arrested Eric McNeil (age 30) for being a “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” and “Manufacture of a Controlled Drug,” both felonies. McNeil is scheduled for arraignment on September 17 in the Rochester District Court.
In addition, McNeil and a second man, Robert Weeks, of 21 New Road in Strafford, are both facing various Fish and Game charges, including “Taking of a Deer during the Closed Season,” a misdemeanor. Weeks is not a suspect in the marijuana growing activity.
According to Conservation Officer Justin Ferland, “These two individuals committed a wildlife crime when they made the decision to kill this deer, it was only a fawn and still had spots on it. Thanks to the efforts of an individual making a call to Operation Game Thief, we hope to see justice served in this matter.”
Operation Game Thief (OGT) is a silent witness, anti-poaching program that encourages the public to report any suspicious activity or knowledge about a poaching violation. The toll-free hotline 1-800-344-4262 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to report wildlife violations. Violations may also be reported online at wildnh.com/OGT. Poaching is the illegal take of game or fish, trespassing, littering, theft, or destroying property.