October 06, 2017
In the field notes: Here's a roundup of state outdoors news, which includes a story on the huge fine assessed on a Alabama deer farm owner.
This report was compiled from wildlife agency news releases, original reporting and media reports.
Game Breeder Fined $750,000
An Alabama game breeder has been fined $750,000 as part of a plea agreement for illegally importing whitetail deer from Indiana.
The Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources said in a news release that Lewis H. "Sonny" Skinner of Northport, Ala., was facing charges stemming from a Novbember 2016 arrest for knowingly importing six whitetails from an Indiana farm. An associate, Franklin Banks Loden, also of Northport, also was arrested.
As part of the plea agreement, Skinner had his state game breeder license revoked and agreed to pay $100,000 to the federal Lacey Act Reward Fund and $650,000 in fines and restitution to the state, which will be used for law enforcement activities and continued disease testing of wildlife.
The Lacey Act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold.
Prosecutors said Skinner, owner of Skinner Farms, a private deer breeding business in Sumter County, knew Alabama is a "closed border state that prohibits the importation of deer."
Regulations preventing the importation of deer is one tool to help curb the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in the U.S.
Skinner arranged for Loden to secretly transport the deer from Indiana, but Loden was stopped and the deer were seized by officers in Tuscaloosa. The deer seized and the deer at Skinner's Farm will be tested for CWD, the state said.
CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer. Once CWD is introduced into the environment, it is impossible to eradicate, the state said.
"Over the last 15 years, we have watched this disease insidiously spread across the country," said Capt. Carter Hendrix with the WFF Law Enforcement Section. "In fact, it has spread much faster than it naturally should have. This is due largely to human transportation across state lines of infected, harvested animal parts or live animals."
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Stripers Undersized and Mutilated
A New York conservation officer came across four suspicious people who were fishing along the Harlem River on Sept. 17, when he asked if they had any fish.
"No," was the response.
But when the officer checked their cooler he found many undersized striped bass stuffed in two plastic bags. All of the fish were under the required 28 inches in length and had been "mutilated," according to a news release from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
A total of 22 stripers were seized. The state limit is one per angler per day.
Twelve summons were issued.
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Giant Bear Killed in Georgia
The Georgia DNR said it's been a great start to the state's bear hunting season.
That includes the reported recent killing of a 673-pound black bear by a bow hunter in north Georgia. It's believed to be the heaviest bear ever taken in Georgia. The giant bear was killed in Rabun County on Saturday.
The DNR's Wildlife Resources Division posted photos on its Facebook page of Tim Watson's giant bear and others recently harvested.
The bear was shot on private land, and Watson called six other people to help him drag it out of the woods, reported Georgia Outdoors News, which also said the previous heaviest bear in Georgia weighed just over 600 pounds.
"I am no trophy hunter," Watson told GON. "I hunt for the meat."
The DNR said the weight doesn't necessarily mean Watson's bear is a state record. Bear state records are determined by skull measurement, much like antler =measurements used to determine deer records.
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