Deer Traffickers Caught and Sentenced

by Caitlyn Andrews August 13, 2015

Ohio Deer Traffickers Father and Son Sentenced

Following wildlife regulations such as equipping your White-Tailed deer with ear tags is a crucial part of deer ownership. Federal identification tags ensure that a deer is certified to be free from chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, and tuberculosis. Not only does a deer tag provide this proof of health, but Federal Law requires interstate shipment of deer to be certified as disease free. A father and son business team operating in Florida and Ohio have recently learned that the hard way.

Illegal White-tailed Deer Operations

Father and son, Donald W. Wainwright, Sr., 49, of Live Oak, FL, and Donald W. Wainwright, Jr., 29, of Live Oak, FL, were both recently sentenced for deer trafficking and illegal hunting practices in Ohio. Wainwright Sr. owned hunting preserves in Live Oak, FL, and Logan County, OH. Both preserves were named Valley View Whitetails. The son was a part-time operator and resident of the Ohio site.  

Deer Trafficking, Illegal Hunts, and Tags

Together, the father and son trafficked in live White-Tailed deer. Wainwright, Sr. illegally shipped deer from Florida to Ohio and was caught when attempting to ship deer from Ohio to Georgia. The deer herds involved were not certified to be disease free. The attempted shipment was intercepted on I-71 South when Ohio wildlife officers saw deer noses and antlers inside a cargo trailer. The truck was pulled over and found to be driven by one of Wainwright, Sr.'s employees. 

In addition to trafficking, the Wainwrights also sold illegal deer hunts at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio. Clients paid from $1,000 to $50,000 to kill deer in the preserve. Wainwright did not have a hunting preserve license. Customers took their bucks back to their home states, including Florida, Alabama, Virginia and Michigan.  Wainwright, Sr. had also taken the tags from a dead, previously certified deer and placed it in the ear of an uncertified deer. He sold breeding services and semen from the uncertified deer with the false tags to deer breeders across the United States.

Harsh Sentences

Wainwright, Sr. pleaded guilty to 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. The Lacey Act states that it is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell or purchase wildlife, fish or plants that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of a state, federal or foreign law. Wainwright was sentenced Aug. 3, 2015, in U.S. District Court to 21 months in prison and a $125,000 fine. He was also sentenced to 200 hours of community service.

Wainwright Jr. pleaded guilty to eight charges related to violating the Lacey Act. He was also sentenced on August 3, 2015. He will serve four months of house arrest and three years of probation.

 Law enforcement took this case and its sentencing seriously, and for good reason. “Chronic wasting disease can decimate wild deer and elk populations and we take egregious violations like this very seriously,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson. The Wainwrights exposed entire populations to potentially devastating diseases. It wasn't just deer and elk in Ohio and Florida that were exposed, but populations in states across the country where their uncertified deer were hauled, breeding services sold, and trophy bucks were taken. The Wainwrights' actions were reckless. Luckily, law enforcement teams that were involved worked together to bring them to justice.

For more information on obtaining deer tags click here and for more information on Chronic Wasting Disease click here.

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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