High Fence Operation Busted for Smuggling Deer

Operators of a high fence operation took a huge financial hit after their day in court where they were convicted of smuggling deer.  I guess they were not happy with the size of the deer they had and tried to supplement their herd by bringing in deer form out of state, which is illegal in Mississippi.

According to the Clarion Leger, Edward L. Donaldson Jr., 75, and John Jared Oertling, 42, both residents of Pearl River, Louisiana, were sentenced in Hattiesburg Tuesday on charges of conspiring to smuggle live whitetail deer into Mississippi.

United States District Judge Keith Starrett sentenced Donaldson and Oertling each to three years of probation, a fine of $10,000, and a worldwide ban from hunting of any type for one year. Oertling was also sentenced to serve six months of house arrest and location monitoring.

Besides the individual fines the judge slapped extra restrictions on the high fence operation. Because the deer they brought in came from a farm in Pennsylvania that is CWD positive. The judge also ordered that the 1,031 acre high-fenced enclosure known as Turkey Trot to be quarantined for five years and the white-tailed deer inside are to be tested for chronic wasting disease. Donaldson and Oertling must pay $120,000 for the testing.

The sentencing comes from a 2017 investigation that showed that from February of 2010 through November of 2012,that the defendents did knowing and willfully conspire to transport live white-tailed deer in interstate commerce in violation of state and federal laws.

The men would unlawfully smuggle the live whitetail deer into Mississippi for the purpose of breeding and killing trophy bucks. According to the Sun Herald, when the men learned that the deer from Pennsylvania were infected, they directed that all deer at the ranch be released into a 1.6-square mile fenced enclosure.

The deer import ban is part of the states effort to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. So far only one deer has ever tested positive for the disease in Mississippi. According to MDWFP, over 1,800 deer in Mississippi have been tested for the disease since October 2017, but so far only one deer in Issaquena County deer has tested positive.

Hopefully the men will learn their lesson and not put their own interests above all the hunters in the state. May this serve as a warning to others that seek to put our wildlife in jeopardy and assists in the spreading of CWD.