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Cherokee County Man Sentenced for Negligent Transportation of Wildlife
TYLER – United States Attorney John M. Bales announced Monday, April 30, that Blake Powell, a 32-year-old Cherokee County man, was sentenced for negligent transportation of wildlife before United States Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie.
Powell pled guilty to a 3 count Information which was filed with the Court on December 12, 2011, which charged him with transportation of wildlife in interstate commerce in violation of state law. Today, he was sentenced to two years probation, a $100 special assessment fee and he was ordered to pay a fine of $243,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lacey Act Reward Account, and $157,000 in community restitution to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Additionally, Powell will be prohibited from participating in the deer breeding business during the term of his probation.
Powell owned and operated the Rockin’ P White Tails, a high-fence deer breeding facility in Cherokee County. On or about Feb. 17, 2007, in the Eastern District of Texas, Powell sold a live, whitetail deer, known as “Diablo” valued at over $350 that was acquired from an out-of-state source, which is prohibited by Texas law. On or about March 4, 2007 Powell, sold 10 live whitetail deer, valued at over $350 that were acquired from an out-of-state source, and on or about Nov. 22, 2007 Powell, knowingly imported, transported, received, and acquired, in interstate commerce, a live whitetail deer, a buck known as “Thunderstruck,” valued at over $350, that was also acquired from an out-of-state source.
The fair market value of all of the illegally imported, whitetail deer, including relevant conduct, exceeded approximately $208,500. Additionally, through the unlawful importation of white-tail deer, Powell accumulated white-tailed deer semen valued at approximately $85,000 and progeny valued at approximately $172,500. Powell was required to forfeit the illegally derived deer semen to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Findings of the investigation also prompted the Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to conduct an epidemiological investigation in consultation with veterinarians and wildlife disease experts from Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Department of State Health Services, and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and accredited veterinarians actively involved in the deer breeding industry. Ultimately all 66 deer contained in Powell’s deer breeding facility were euthanized to facilitate testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) and bovine tuberculosis (TB). This process was necessary in order to provide an acceptable level of assurance that neither disease was prevalent neither in Powell’s deer breeding facility nor in any deer breeding facility that had received deer from Powell’s facility since February 2007.
TPWD has had an intensive CWD surveillance program since 2002, and this disease has yet to be detected in Texas. Likewise, bovine tuberculosis has not been detected in any Texas deer population. However, illegal entry of white-tailed deer from other states poses a serious risk of introducing these diseases and others into Texas. Introduction of these diseases into Texas could have a detrimental impact on the longtime cultural tradition of deer hunting, which generates an estimated $1.2 billion in retail sales and has a total economic output of more than $2 billion in Texas each year. Disease monitoring is also necessary to protect legal deer breeding activity from risk of disease exposure. Furthermore, bovine tuberculosis could have a significant impact on the Texas livestock industry. Prevention is the most effective tool to combat diseases because once established in wild populations, these diseases are extremely difficult, if not impossible to eradicate.
Since no live-animal test for CWD exists, TPWD consulted with trained experts to ensure the most humane euthanasia method and treatment of the animals was used. The Texas Veterinarian Medical Diagnostic Laboratory located in College Station, TX reported “not detected” test results for all tissue samples submitted.
This case was investigated by the Special Operations Unit of the Texas Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble.
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