/ 18 December 2018

Natural fawn killer: US judge sentences poacher to “Bambi” viewings

(Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)
(Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

A judge in Missouri, United States, has sentenced a prolific poacher to repeat screenings of “Bambi,” the Walt Disney classic weepy about a fawn whose mother is slain by a hunter.

David Berry Jr will be forced to watch the animated movie at least once a month during his year-long jail term, the result of what law enforcement officials described as one of their largest-ever poaching investigations.

Berry and two family members were arrested on charges of killing hundreds of deer over three years, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, which announced the sentence in a December 13 statement.

“If Bambi gets the point across to him, I don’t have a problem with it,” Lawrence County prosecutor Don Trotter told BuzzFeed News.

“The deer were trophy bucks taken illegally, mostly at night, for their heads, leaving the bodies of the deer to waste,” said Trotter.

In the last three months of 2015 alone, the Berry family killed around 100 deer, according to photos taken from their phones, said Trotter.

Berry had already seen his hunting privileges revoked for past wildlife infractions and was on probation. He and other two men have paid a combined $51 000 in fines and court costs.

“In situations like this, with serial poachers who have no regard for the animals, rules of fair chase, or aren’t bothered by the fact that they’re stealing from others, it’s all about greed and ego,” Randy Doman, an official with the Missouri Department Of Conservation, told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper.

The Walt Disney Company bewitched generations of children with its pioneering animated film, released in August 1942, about a wide-eyed young deer and his doting mom.

But the shocking image of young Bambi curled up next to the doe after she is slain by hunters, has become as iconic as any scene in cinema history, credited with opening up taboo conversations about death and helping youngsters cope with bereavement.

“Bambi” often leads lists of the saddest moments in cinema, and even moved Time magazine to include the movie among its top 25 horror movies of all time, alongside “Frankenstein,” “The Exorcist” and “Night of the Living Dead.”

Judge Robert George sent Berry to jail for one year and ordered the film viewings to be conducted by the sheriff of the Lawrence County Jail.

Berry’s attorneys asked for leniency in sentencing because their client’s wife had recently had a baby. But the judge was apparently not moved.

“You can watch Bambi and think about your own child when you do that,” Trotter said.

Fourteen people have been ensnared in a multi-year investigation of illegal hunting spanning Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Canada.

© Agence France-Presse