Osceola County deer farm/ranch owner arraigned on several violations

Contact: Jason Haines, hainesj@michigan.gov
Agency: Natural Resources

May 23, 2019

 

The owner of two privately owned cervid (POC) facilities – also known as deer farms – in Osceola County, Michigan, has been arraigned on several misdemeanor charges tied to facility maintenance and inspections, reporting and other areas.

Ryan Hopkins, 42, of Sears, Michigan, is the owner and operator of Hopkins Trophy Whitetails, also located in Sears. On Tuesday, in the Osceola County District Court, in Reed City, Hopkins pleaded not guilty to those violations.

Hopkins Trophy Whitetails, which operates both a breeding facility and a ranch in Sears, offers paying clients the opportunity to hunt whitetail deer.

The Michigan DNR Law Enforcement Division last month served Hopkins with 11 arrest warrants arising out of a DNR investigation:

  • Failure to maintain farm records (two counts).
  • Failure to maintain/provide fence inspections (two counts).
  • Failure to maintain facility standards - fencing (two counts).
  • Failure to submit annual inventories (two counts).
  • Operating an unregistered facility (two counts).
  • Failure to comply with individual animal identification (one count).

“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.

Hopkins’ history of violations includes failure to:

  • Maintain facility fencing standards and inspection records.
  • Submit annual inventory reports.
  • Maintain records of appropriate disposal of deer.
  • Meet animal tagging requirements.
  • Produce records at the request of law enforcement.
  • Properly register two facilities.
  • Properly report deer escapes.

“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,” he said. “We want to ensure the industry’s long-term integrity, economic viability and compliance.”

Hopkins will return to court Friday, June 7, for a pretrial hearing.

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.