Deer Smuggling: Don’t Try This At Home

 

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Expensive Racks!

 

Since gun-running and drug smuggling have gotten so dicey – thieves have a new ploy — ‘wild deer smuggling.’ Wonder if it’s worth it? A breeding whitetailed buck with the ‘right genetics’ auctions for $500,000!

Who Buys Smuggled Whitetails?

Brian Becker, owner of a deer breeding facility in Minnesota was caught delivering 8 wild deer to a posh hunter’s spread called Circle E Ranch, in Grimes County (TX), between Navasota and Huntsville.

Circle E Ranch offers a wide range of game – from addax to wildebeest and zebra. Accommodations are $250/day, with a 3 day minimum. There’s also a fee for each animal shot – a zebra, including field dressing, costs $6,500.

Follow the Money

Becker was willing to take the gamble — he’d earned $300,000 from the owner of Circle E Ranch, Robert L. Eichenour, over the past 4 years!  He’d driven these whitetails over 1000 miles (I hope gas was extra).

It’s hard to say just how prevalent this practice is in America. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and Texas Parks & Wildlife avow that the practice is profitable and common. Others (land owners and ranch managers) don’t see it that way.

Why It’s Illegal

Texas is a closed state, meaning that deer cannot be imported from other states. Why? Because many states are battling “bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, a devastating condition likened to mad-cow disease but spread among deer, elk and moose.”

This is serious: Minnesota, where the deer lived, has spent $30 million trying to eradicate the disease in their wild deer. Texas, which has no such infestation, has banned the importation of wild or domesticated deer, to protect their herds.

A Hefty Price on Their  Whitetailed Heads

Because of the ban, deer with large racks, are in high demand. Deer with antler racks scoring between 140 and 149 on the Boone and Crockett Scale, are very popular. Trophy deer in this class can easily cost the hunter between $2,500 and $15,000 (for each animal shot). Mounting extra, of course.

A Hefty Price When You Get Caught

Brian Becker, on probation for smuggling deer into Oklahoma in 2005, earned a 33 month sentence by a federal court in Plano.  Wealthy Houston-area businessman, Robert L Eichenour,  got 18 months in jail and a $50,000 fine.

Both men had pleaded guilty. Some Grimes County citizens were surprised by the jail-time.  “We see murderers and rapists given probation, but bring a whitetail deer to Texas, and you do federal time,” Constable Dale Schaper said.

Grimes County Judge Gene Stapleton said the 18-month sentence “totally ruins [Eichenour’s] life. If you are going to ruin someone’s life, ruin a drug dealer’s life.”

Not-So-Warm-And-Fuzzy-Words from Other Deer Breeders

On the other side of the fence were the deer breeders.  “I am outraged,” said Mike Lamb, a West Texas whitetail deer breeder and rancher.

“I’ve spent a lot of money proving my deer are tested and healthy. An outbreak from smuggled deer would totally wipe me out. Nothing is worth the risk, and to have people exposing the wildlife population to make a few thousand is just ridiculous.”

The whole story is here: http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/1078126.html

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, article by Barry Schlachter

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