Two Louisiana Residents Plead Guilty to Smuggling Live White-Tailed Deer into Mississippi

From:  News Release   10/18/17   GCN

Hattiesburg, Miss. – Edward L. Donaldson Jr., 75, and John Jared Oertling, 42, both residents of Pearl River, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, pled guilty today to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act for importing live white-tailed deer into Mississippi, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst 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.

Donaldson and Oertling admitted to United States District Judge Keith Starrett to purchasing and transporting live white-tailed deer into Mississippi in violation of state and federal law from February 2010 through November 2012. Donaldson and Oertling manage a 1,031 acre high fenced enclosure in Forrest County, Mississippi, known as Turkey Trott Ranch .

Donaldson and Oertling admitted 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 Pennsylvania 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 is the third such case brought by federal authorities against South Mississippi landowners caught importing white-tailed deer since February of 2014. “The illegal transportation and importation of live animals across state lines can have a potentially devastating impact on the health and safety of our citizens. This case demonstrates our continuing commitment, together with our federal and state law enforcement partners, to hunt down and prosecute those who choose to violate federal law,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst.

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.