MERCED -- Four teenagers have been arrested in connection with last weekend's killing of 19 cottontail rabbits near Atwater.
Johnathan White, 18, of Atwater; Rodney Regert, 19, of Merced; Frankie Flores, 19, of Winton; and a 16-year-old Atwater boy were arrested Tuesday, said Warden Scott Hall of the state Department of Fish and Game.
A woman on her way to church Sunday spotted the rabbit carcasses on Quinley Avenue near Highway 140 in the Atwater area.
The teens face charges of taking cottontail rabbits out of season, violating shooting hours for resident small game, wanton waste, and spotlighting, Hall said.
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They allegedly killed the rabbits about midnight Saturday, using two air pellet rifles and a 15-million-candlepower spotlight.
It is against the law to use spotlights to hunt cottontails.
Hall said the four teens confessed to the shooting and gave him written statements.
The youths, all avid hunters who had hunting licenses and had passed required hunter certification classes, knew what they were doing was wrong and apologized for their deeds, Hall said.
Cottontail rabbits are considered game animals. The season for hunting cottontails is July 1 through the last Saturday in January.
Allowable shooting hours for rabbits start a half-hour before sunrise and end a half-hour after sunset, Hall said. Hunters are allowed to take five rabbits in a day's time or have 10 in their possession.
Hall said he will file a complaint with the Merced County district attorney's office in Los Banos. A complaint also will be filed with the county Probation Department concerning the 16-year-old.
The youths could face up to $3,000 in fines if convicted.