Authorities close illegal hunting farm in Washington County

A Washington County landowner and his employee have been fined more than $70,000 for running a deer and sheep farm used for illegal “canned hunts,” according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Landowner Jens Brynteson was fined $70,000 and his employee David Kilgore, of Madison County, was fined $2,000 as a result of an 18-month investigation. DNR officials also issued 29 misdemeanor citations to Kilgore for violating Georgia’s trapping laws.

The DNR commissioner authorized seizure of herds of fallow deer, red deer and Mouflon sheep on two properties owned by Brynteson.

Brynteson had a DNR permit for deer farming on Ga. 15 North in Warthen, but that license expired March 31, according to a DNR news release.

The release said Brynteson was moving farmed deer from one property and putting them in a high-fence shooting pen on a different property, which can spread disease among deer herds.

“Not only are these types of ‘canned hunts’ illegal in Georgia, the shooting of farmed deer and sheep for sport in staged hunting venues serves no legitimate role in wildlife conservation and is not supported by the majority of Georgia’s citizens,” said Dan Forster, director of the Wildlife Resources Division, in an e-mailed statement.

“These types of unethical activities threaten the use of fair chase hunting as an effective, cost-efficient management tool in Georgia and erodes the existing public support for legal hunting,” he said.

Deer farms are allowed in Georgia for producing non-native deer for use as food and fiber. There are 11 licensed deer farms in the state, according to the DNR.

The investigation is ongoing, said Melissa Cummings, a DNR communications specialist. She said the confiscated deer will be tested for disease, and the state will determine what to do with them after getting the results.

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.