Trophy-hunting biz owner who illegally imported deer banned from operating in Kansas

The owner of a trophy-hunting company who admitted to illegally importing domesticated deer into the state has been banned from doing business in Kansas.

Robert "Bob" McConnell, 48, of Slippery Rock, Penn., previously pleaded guilty in federal court to four counts of importing deer into Kansas. McConnell owns Horseshoe Hill Outfitters.

In addition to the ban on doing business in Kansas, he was sentenced to 5 years probation and fined $30,000, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a release.

The four counts carried a maximum combined fine of $40,000, but McConnell's Topeka attorney had requested a $10,000 fine, court records show.

"A $10,000 fine is appropriate in light of the limited scope of conduct and the lack of actual risk to Kansas animals," a sentencing memorandum argues.

McConnell admitted to violating the Lacey Act, which regulates the trade of wildlife, fish and plants that have been taken, possessed, transported or sold illegally.

Transporting deer across state lines is illegal in part to prevent the spread of diseases, especially chronic wasting disease.

Chronic wasting disease affects the nervous system in deer and elk and results in brain lesions, the National Wildlife Health Center states. There is no treatment and the disease is typically fatal. It is not known to infect livestock or humans.

The disease has been found in animals in at least 24 states and two Canadian provinces, including Kansas and Pennsylvania.

McConnell's attorney argued that the deer he imported did not carry chronic wasting disease or tuberculosis.

"No evidence exists showing that the deer presented actual risk for spreading infection; the risk was entirely theoretical," court documents state.

In two counts, McConnell admitted to importing two deer that were not from an accredited herd, were not officially identified and did not have a certificate of veterinary inspection, the release said. In the other two counts, he admitted to importing domesticated deer.

Horseshoe Hill Outfitters previously advertised "trophy North American big game hunting adventures" in Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Ontario and Quebec on its website.

"Our hunters come back year after year to bag that huge trophy animal. ... We have a taxidermist on staff that can mount your trophy or make a rug," the website stated.

The website is no longer active.

"Horseshoe Hill Outfitters is no longer operational, and Mr. McConnell has not engaged in business in this state for several years," McConnell's attorney said in the sentencing memorandum.

A game warden narrowly avoids a collision with a deer just south of Atchison, earlier this week. The Kansas game wardens posted video on their Facebook page. The warden saw the deer in the ditch and was able to slow down before it ran in front of