Bannister, Mich. – A Saginaw-area game ranch owner and her son
face a slew of criminal charges following an investigation that
alleges the duo smuggled game animals into the state, then kept
some of the animals in cruel conditions.
Michigan Trophy Hunts owner Janet Turner, 74, and her son Scott
Turner, 45, were arraigned earlier this month on 27 criminal
charges each, ranging from felony cruelty to animals to misdemeanor
counts of illegally importing elk into Michigan, failing to
maintain animal health records, and other infractions.
“We got involved originally because there were complaints coming
from the public about illegal importation and animal cruelty. You
could drive by this facility and see animals – feral pigs and boars
– eating carcasses of other animals right out in the open,” said
Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the Michigan DNR.
“Our wildlife veterinarian did confirm several cases of
starvation in the elk. The elk were beyond carrying capacity of the
property, and he wasn’t doing any supplemental feeding,” Dettloff
Janet Turner and Scott Turner were released on a $97,000
personal recognizance bond after their arraignment April 8 and are
expected to return to court for a preliminary examination in
Saginaw County District Court later this month, prosecutor Michael
Investigators last spring served a warrant on the roughly
500-acre Turner property where they say they found several
malnourished animals among the 200 elk, numerous wild boars, deer,
water buffalos, and bison. Records from the facility also showed
that many of the animals were imported from Iowa, Colorado,
Minnesota, and Canada over several years, in violation of a state
importation ban established in April 2002 to combat chronic wasting
disease, DNR officials said.
Hamilton said investigators executed a search warrant last
spring and spent four days on the property, herding and inspecting
the animals. Charges were not brought against the Turners for
several months afterward because of the lengthy process of tracking
down the origin of the animals through multiple agencies in
numerous states and provinces, said Detective Lt. Wade Hamilton,
supervisor of the DNR’s Special Investigative Unit.
All of the elk and boars have since been killed, Hamilton
The case comes as the DNR is working with all game ranches
statewide after CWD was detected in a captive deer facility in Kent
County last year, he said.
“Like any business operation, the majority of operators are in
compliance, but there are those isolated individuals that paint a
bad picture for people in the industry.”
Janet Turner declined comment when contacted by MON.
The Turners each face four felony counts for animal cruelty and
conspiracy to commit related crimes, with a potential 4-year prison
sentence and fines up to $15,000. The remaining 23 misdemeanor
charges range from 30 to 90 days in jail and fines from $300 to
$2,500, DNR officials said.
Restitution for veterinary care, evaluations, and other costs
also could be imposed.