Alabama Deer Breeder charged with Illegal Transportation of Whitetail Deer

BIRMINGHAM – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama today charged a licensed Alabama deer breeder and his associate for illegally transporting captive-bred and raised whitetail deer from a facility in Indiana to his deer breeder facility in Alabama. U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and Alabama’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Chief of Enforcement Michael Weathers announced the charge.
Prosecutors filed a one-count information charging LEWIS H. SKINNER, 56, and his associate FRANKLIN BANKS LODEN, 56, both of Northport, with knowingly transporting and receiving whitetail deer in interstate commerce. The defendants should have known that the wildlife was possessed and transported in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Alabama and the federal Lacey Act, according to the charge.

In conjunction with the information, prosecutors also filed a plea agreement with Skinner and Loden in the U.S. District Court. According to the plea agreement, Skinner owned and controlled all activities occurring on Skinner Farms, a private deer breeding business in Sumter County, Ala. Skinner had obtained a deer breeder permit from the State of Alabama and knew that Alabama is a “closed border” state that prohibits importing deer.

According to the plea agreement, Skinner surrendered his Alabama Game Breeders License and agreed not to participate in the commercial deer breeder industry in the future. Skinner also agreed to pay a $100,000 fine, which shall be directed to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, and $650,000 in restitution to the State of Alabama.

In November 2016, according to the plea agreement, Skinner arranged for Loden to move six captive-bred whitetail deer covertly from Indiana to Skinner Farms in Alabama. Law enforcement stopped Loden and seized the deer in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Investigators determined that some of these illegally transported deer were lacking the required identification for the Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Program. The deer in question, fawns from a previously certified herd, rendered the farm and other deer disqualified from the program because of the lack of identification. The required identification is usually in the form of a numbered ear tag or tattoo.

CWD affects the central nervous system of deer species, including whitetail deer. The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal causing it to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions, and die. CWD is infectious, communicable and 100 percent fatal.

“The illegal transport of deer from outside the State of Alabama by a licensed deer breeder motivated solely by profit places our entire whitetail deer herd at risk of this fatal disease,” Weathers said. “The charge and plea agreement in this case are evidence of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division’s steadfast dedication to protecting the wildlife resources of the State of Alabama,” he said.

As noted in the plea agreement, Skinner is submitting all captive whitetail deer held in his deer breeder facility to be tested for the presence of CWD.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division investigated the case in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Cornelius is prosecuting the case.

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