Three hunters from South Carolina face federal charges for bringing home a CWD-infected buck from Kansas. A laboratory confirmed the test results in 2019, The State reports, marking the first and only time the disease has been verified in a deer that was transported into South Carolina. The three men were arraigned in a U.S. District courtroom in Lexington County on Aug. 29, where a judge set their bond at $20,000 apiece. If convicted of the charges, they could spend up to five years in prison.
Court documents name the three men charged as Sean Robert Paschall, Chad Caldwell Seymore, and Justin Grady LeMaster. Seymore was charged with two federal counts of unlawfully transporting wildlife, while Paschall and LeMaster each face one count. The charges stem from a hunting trip the men took to Kansas four years ago. They’re the most recent (and severe) example of states cracking down on the transportation of deer parts due to fears of CWD.
In May, the Kentucky Department of Wildlife Resources filed a lawsuit against a hunter for bringing the head of a CWD-infected buck from Wisconsin to a taxidermist near his home in Kentucky. It was the first time that any state has sought civil damages from a hunter for importing a diseased deer carcass. But the $1,900 in damages that KDFW sought from the Kentucky hunter pale in comparison to the federal charges that Paschall, Seymore, and LeMaster now face in South Carolina.
The three hunters broke a state law when they decided to bring the buck they killed in Kansas back home to South Carolina. That law prohibits hunters from bringing whole or field-dressed deer carcasses, along with deer heads, necks, or spines from states that are known to harbor CWD. Although that law has been on the books since 2004, state lawmakers stiffened the penalties for violating it in September 2022, after neighboring North Carolina confirmed its second known case of CWD within 75 miles of the South Carolina border.
“The disease is slow to advance and infected deer may appear healthy, making proper transport or disposal important,” the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources explained in a news release that called attention to the stiffer penalties. “An infected carcass part, if not disposed properly, can contaminate the environment, persist for years and potentially infect deer in the area.”
The DNR did not immediately respond to requests for comment and clarification around this case.
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Seymore’s lawyer argued on Tuesday that the men were ignorant of the state’s rules surrounding the transportation of carcasses and other deer parts across state lines. He told The State that the hunters just wanted a big Kansas buck and “had no idea” these rules were in place. He said they thought about getting the buck processed and mounted in Kansas but then realized it would be cheaper to get it done in South Carolina.
In doing so, they compounded their legal troubles. As soon as they left Kansas and transported the deer carcass across state lines, the three men violated the Lacey Act and opened themselves up to federal charges.
SCDNR official Charles Ruth signaled that the case against the three hunters is an example of how adamant they are about preventing CWD from spreading into the state. South Carolina is now one of only three Southeastern states (along with Georgia and Kentucky) without a confirmed case of CWD. The fatal neurological disease that affects whitetails and other cervids has now been confirmed in 31 other states.
“This particular case demonstrates why we have regulations prohibiting these carcass parts from being imported from states,” Ruth told The State on Tuesday.
According to current South Carolina regulations, whitetail deer hunters can bring the following into the state, regardless of where the deer was killed:
- Quarters (hams and shoulders) or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached
- Meat that has been boned out
- Hides with no heads attached
- Clean skulls with no meat or tissue attached, clean skull plates with antlers attached, antlers detached from the skull plate and finished taxidermy heads