GAME COMMISSION FILES CHARGES AGAINST UNLAWFUL DEER FARM AND HUNTING OPERATION
HARRISBURG - As part of an ongoing investigation, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials have filed more than 2,300 wildlife-related and criminal charges against Jeffrey Dean Spence, of Cemetery Road in Reynoldsville, Jefferson County, for operating an illegal white-tailed deer farm and hunting operation. On Feb. 14, charges were filed in the office of District Justice Richard Beck of Brookville, and a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 31. If convicted of all counts, Spence faces fines and penalties in excess of $16 million.
Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Roger Hartless, who filed the charges and led the investigation, noted that other charges may be filed as the investigation continues. All charges were filed after consultation with Jefferson County District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett.
Following is a breakdown of the 2,318 charges filed against Spence.
Spence was charged with 1,284 counts for allegedly selling or bartering, offering for sale or barter, conspiring to sell and barter and having in possession for sale or barter white-tailed deer or the edible parts of white-tailed deer. It also is alleged that Spence propagated these deer at an unpermitted facility. If convicted of these violations of the Game and Wildlife Code, Spence faces fines up to $1,027,200.
It is alleged that Spence unlawfully used a computer to sell or offer for sale the white-tailed deer being propagated at the unpermitted facility, resulting in 960 counts of unlawful use of a computer and other crimes. If convicted of these violations of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, Spence faces up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines for each count.
Lastly, it is alleged that Spence unlawfully obtained payment for selling white-tailed deer he was not lawfully permitted to sell and that he raised at an unlawful facility, resulting in 74 counts of theft by deception. If convicted of these violations of the Crimes Code, Spence faces up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines for each of 10 counts, five years in prison and $10,000 in fines for each of 34 counts and two years in prison and $5,000 in fines for each of 30 counts.
"The Commonwealth imposes certain requirements and restrictions on those who raise, breed, sell and import cervids, such as deer and elk, to protect the health and welfare of our state's wild and captive deer and elk," Hartless said. "These restrictions are designed to ensure the prevention, detection and interception of wildlife-related diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), from entering the state and impacting our wild or captive cervid herds. By operating outside the system, Mr. Spence was placing at risk our state's wild deer and elk herds and legally-permitted facilities."
In September, members of the Pennsylvania CWD task force signed the state's response plan, which outlines ways to prevent CWD from entering the state's borders and, if CWD is in Pennsylvania, how to detect, contain and work to eradicate it. The task force was comprised of representatives from the Governor's Office, the Game Commission, the state Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Health, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. A copy of the final plan can be viewed on the Game Commission's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on "Reports/Minutes" and then selecting "Pennsylvania CWD Response Plan."
Since 2001, the Pennsylvania Agriculture Department has provided a nationally-recognized CWD Herd Certification Program to enable the cervid farming industry to certify its deer and elk herds CWD-free.
Recently, the Game Commission issued an order banning the importation of specific carcass parts from states and Canadian provinces where CWD had been identified in free-ranging cervid populations. Hunters traveling to the following states must abide by the importation restrictions: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (CWD containment area only), South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia (Hampshire County only), Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Specific carcass parts prohibited from being imported into Pennsylvania by hunters are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and retropharyngeal lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; and brain-tanned hides.
The order does not limit the importation of the following animal parts originating from any cervid in the quarantined states, provinces or area: meat, without the backbone; skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft material is present; and taxidermy mounts.
First identified in 1967, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that affects cervids, including all species of deer and elk. It is a progressive and always fatal disease, which scientists theorize is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.
There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, and there is no vaccine to prevent an animal from contracting the disease, nor is there a cure for animals that become infected. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death. There is no evidence of CWD being transmissible to humans or to other non-cervid livestock under normal conditions.
Deer harboring CWD may not show any symptoms in the disease's early stages. As it progresses, infected animals become very emaciated and their hair has a very disheveled appearance. Drooling is sometimes apparent. Deer often hang out near water, which some consume in large amounts. They also may use an exaggerated wide posture to stay standing.
Additional information on CWD can be found on the CWD Alliance's website (http://www.cwd-info.org).
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Content Last Modified on 2/17/2006 10:22:38 AM