Neighbors near Wehr Nature Center in Franklin woke up around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning to gun shots.
Police found two men poaching in the area, and also took them into custody for discharging a firearm within city limits.
"It's a safety issue," explained Deb McRae, Wehn Nature Center Director and UWM extension youth development agent. "People walk and hike and enjoy our parks 24 hours a day," she continued.
But it's also an issue for the ecosystem in the parks. McRae said the men were after small game, like rabbits and squirrels. Those mammals can be hunted, but not inside Milwaukee County parks.
"Sometimes individuals don't know the rules and regulations and they see 'Ah, here's food, I'm going to take some," she said.
County ordinance says "No person shall carry, fire or discharge any gun, pistol or firearm, nor any rocket, torpedo or other fireworks of any description, nor shall any person engage in trapping within any park or parkway without a written permit of the department of parks, recreation and culture." However, state ordinance overrides the "carry" portion of that ordinance. That means a person can carry a firearm in a park with a concealed-carry permit, but still can't discharge it. McRae said city ordinances back the county ordinance, as well.
She said poaching doesn't happen often, but it puts people and animals at risk.
"That's what makes me angry," she said, "Is that people will be afraid to come to the parks system."
McRae said if you do hear a gunshot in a park, you should call police and get out of the park immediately. She isn't sure if any animals were harmed in Wednesday's incident. She notes the people responsible could be let off with a warning for poaching, or face citation and fines.