HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - On Tuesday two Louisiana residents pleaded guilty for smuggling white-tailed deer into Mississippi.
Edward L. Donaldson Jr., 75, and John Jared Oertling, 42, both residents of Pearl River, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act for importing live white-tailed deer into Mississippi. U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Special Agent Luis Santiago of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the guilty plea in a Department of Justice press release.
Donaldson and Oertling admitted to purchasing the live deer from Pennsylvania and importing them to their 1,031 acre high-fenced enclosure, known as Turkey Trott Ranch, in Forrest County. According to the press release, the two admitted that the herd came from Pennsylvania and tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a transmissible neurological disease that ultimately ends in the death of the infected animals, and is the chief threat to deer and elk populations in North America.
"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," said U.S. Attorney Hurst. "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."
This is the third such case brought federal authorities against South Mississippi landowners.
"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," Santiago said. "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."