Two Louisiana Residents Charged with Smuggling Live White-Tailed Deer into Mississippi

From: News Release   9/15/17   GCN

Hattiesburg, Miss. – Edward L. Donaldson Jr., 75, and John Jared Oertling, 42, both residents of Pearl River, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, were charged in a Criminal Information with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act for importing live white-tailed deer into Mississippi, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain and Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.

Mississippi law makes it unlawful to import live white-tailed deer into the State of Mississippi and authorizes the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission with the responsibility of establishing regulations governing the importation of white-tailed deer with the emphasis on preventing the introduction of disease. The Commission established a regulation that mirrors the state statute, prohibiting the importation of live white- tailed deer into the State of Mississippi. The Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase wildlife that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state.

According to the Criminal Information, from February of 2010 through November of 2012, Edward L. Donaldson Jr., and John Jared Oertling did knowing and willfully conspire to transport live white-tailed deer in interstate commerce in violation of state and federal laws. Donaldson Jr. and Oertling manage a 1,031-acre high fenced enclosure in Forrest County, Mississippi known as Turkey Trott Ranch. Jill Marie Donaldson, wife of Oertling and daughter of Donaldson is the owner of Turkey Trott Ranch.

The Information also alleges that it was part of the conspiracy that the defendants would unlawfully smuggle the live white-tailed deer into Mississippi for the purpose of breeding and killing trophy white-tailed buck deer. Donaldson Jr. and Oertling learned in 2012 that the live white-tailed deer purchased and imported from Pennsylvania to Turkey Trott Ranch in Forrest County, Mississippi came from a herd of captive white-tailed deer in PA that tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is the chief threat to deer and elk populations in North America. The disease, which ultimately ends in death of infected animals, is a transmissible neurological disease that produces small lesions in the brain of deer and elk and is characterized by loss of body condition and behavioral abnormalities.

“This case demonstrates our continuing commitment, together with our federal and state law enforcement partners, to investigate and prosecute those who choose to violate the federal Lacey Act by illegally importing white-tailed deer into our state,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Brittain.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago stated “We take our mission working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and the citizens of Mississippi in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats very seriously. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement considers the potential spread of disease caused by the illegal commercialization of wildlife resources a high priority, and we will continue to work closely with our State partners to assist them in these important investigations."

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of the Inspector General, and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. It is being prosecuted by Criminal Division Chief Darren J. LaMarca.