by JUDY REED
Pair planned to release animal into the wild
The owners of a private deer farm in Algoma Township have been arrested and charged with violating the Chronic Wasting Disease quarantine order issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) last summer.
The MDA and Department fo Natural Resources (DNR) announced last August that a three-year-old white-tailed doe from a privately owned facility in Rockford had tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurological brain and nervous system disease found in deer, elk and moose. It is the state’s first case.
According to Mary Detloff, of the DNR, James and Brian Schuiteman, owners of J&B Whitetails, where the original deer was found, attempted to move a male deer from the facility on August 23, the day after the quarantine was issued.
At approximately midnight, DNR Conservation Officers David Rodgers and Michael Mshar observed two people enter the quarantined facility with flashlights and a tranquilizer gun. The officers watched the men single out a specific deer and tranquilize it. They then loaded it into an enclosed trailer and towed it from the property, where officers conducted a traffic stop to detain the suspects.
Officers determined a live male white-tailed deer was in the trailer, with identification tags removed. Upon questioning the suspects, the officers learned it was the men’s intent to release the buck into the wild. Officers returned the animal to the facility, where it was euthanized and immediately transported to the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University for testing. The deer tested negative for CWD.
All 40 of the remaining deer at the farm were also shot and killed, then tested for the disease. All the test results came back negative. Four other deer that had been moved to farms in Montcalm and Osceola counties also tested negative for the disease.
James Arthur Schuiteman, 52, and Brian Lee Schuiteman, 24, were arraigned in Rockford’s 63rd District Court, and charged with violating Michigan’s Animal Industry Act for movement of an animal in violation of the quarantine placed on their facility by MDA. This is a felony charge carrying a penalty of $1,000 to $5,000 in fines and imprisonment of up to five years. Both men waived their right to a preliminary exam earlier this week.
While investigating this case, the DNR also reviewed records at Big Buck’s Taxidermy, 3897 Rector, located adjacent to the farm. Investigators determined that two free-ranging deer with intact heads were imported into Michigan illegally and delivered to the business by customers. The deer were taken from Wyoming and South Dakota, known CWD-positive areas.
According to Detloff, when a deer is shot in another state, it needs to be processed in that state. “You can only bring in the antlers, cape, and deboned (processed) meat,” she said. She noted that the deer that were brought in have not been tested, and they may never know if they were the source of the disease.
“We would have to trace it back to the hunters, and then get them to be honest about where in Wyoming they got it,” she explained. “Some parts of Wyoming have CWD, and some do not.”
Detloff said the DNR is still investigating.