SEARS — An Osceola County man recently was fined after pleading no contest to several charges brought by the Department of Natural Resources connected to his "deer farm."
The owner of two privately owned cervid (POC) facilities reappeared in court last week for sentencing related to 11 arrest warrants resulting from a Michigan Department of Natural Resources investigation.
Facility owner Ryan Hopkins, 42, of Sears, pleaded no contest to four counts, including failure to maintain facility standard fencing, failure to submit annual inventories, failure to comply with individual animal identification and operating an unregistered facility.
Hopkins originally faced 11 charges based a number of violations at his facility, including not maintaining facility fencing standards and inspection records, not submitting annual inventory reports, not maintaining records of appropriate disposal of deer, not meeting animal tagging requirements, not producing records at the request of law enforcement, not complying with disease testing standards, not properly registering two facilities and not properly reporting deer escapes.
The judge in the Osceola County 77th Judicial District assessed Hopkins to pay $5,275 in fines and court costs for the four counts. The remaining seven counts were dismissed per a plea deal with the prosecutor’s office.
Hopkins Trophy Whitetails, which operates both a breeding facility and a ranch in Sears, offers paying clients the opportunity to hunt whitetail deer, according to a DNR press release.
“Conservation officers conduct inspections at privately owned cervid facilities and take legal action when a POC violates regulations set by the state,‘ said DNR Law Enforcement Chief Gary Hagler.
“In this case, the owner failed to follow the state POC regulations, as he has in the past," Hagler said. "It’s our responsibility to prevent this type of behavior, which poses risk to the animals within the deer farm and the animals outside of it.‘
Ryan Soulard, a DNR wildlife biologist who assisted in the investigation, said that although cases of this magnitude are rare, swift response and enforcement are critical.
“The vast majority of the owners of Michigan’s more than 300 deer farms are trying to do the right thing and are complying with state rules and regulations. However, we still encounter farms from time to time that require attention,‘ Soulard said. “The DNR is committed to the overall compliance and regulation of deer farms in Michigan. We want to ensure the industry’s long-term integrity, economic viability and compliance.‘
If you witness or suspect a natural resource violation, call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline, available 24/7, at 800-292-7800. Learn more about Michigan’s conservation officers at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.