CADILLAC — Freda Rosso had her two "bird-craziest" English setters with her when she stumbled upon the poison.
Rosso, a grouse hunter from Virginia who travels to Michigan to hunt, has five dogs. She was hunting on public land in Missaukee County with Izzy and Katie on Oct. 18 when she noticed four dead raccoons and a dead porcupine. Plastic containers with a blue sludge, a poison, were nearby.
Rosso is glad Izzy and Katie were with her that day because her other dogs are more curious and may have lapped up the poison before she could call them away.
“I was lucky because I was hunting my two bird-craziest dogs," Rosso said. “All they’re interested in is birds.‘
It was all just steps away from an unmarked deer stand and bait pile.
Rosso reported what she saw to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Report All Poaching line and gave GPS coordinates.
Soon thereafter, Hintze and fellow Conservation Officer Jeremy Cantrell found the scene Rosso had reported; this time, with more dead animals. They cleaned up the poison but left the animals there so as not to tip off the suspect.
The poison Rosso and the officers found was fly bait mixed with cola; the sweetness of the soda attracts critters that eat it, travel a few feet, and then die.
"It's extremely lethal," said Conservation Officer Micah Hintze. "Thank god the dogs didn't ingest it."
The conservation officers started patrolling the area heavily over the next few days.
On Monday, Oct. 28, Hintze saw a vehicle parked nearby, so he walked into the woods.
More poison was set out. And Hintze found the suspect at the deer stand.
"He admitted to everything right there," Hintze said. The suspect said he was poisoning the raccoons because they were eating his deer bait.
Hintze issued the suspect several tickets, including taking an animal using an illegal method, the unregistered deer stand and a ticket for deer baiting, which is no longer allowed in the lower peninsula due to chronic wasting disease.
Technically, the suspect is also supposed to properly dispose of the poisoned animals.
Because of rabies, the dead raccoons can't be transported out of Missaukee County. They should be buried, Hintze said. But the suspect is a 73-year-old from Midland County.
"My partner is going out there (Friday) just to grab them, to get them out of there," Hintze said. "So we don't have any more issues, you know, people coming across it."
The incident caused a stir on Facebook, where both Rosso and another bird hunter posted about their findings. The second person, whose post was shared to several hunting and dog Facebook pages, came across the dead raccoons after Hintze had already found the suspect.
The case is being referred to the Missaukee County Prosecutor's Office, according to Hintze's supervisor, Lt. Brandon Kieft.