Hot Tamale, Hot Tamale … With Deer?

Many of us have joked around about mystery meat in rural gas stations, little pop-up joints on the side of the road or even restaurants in big cities.

TamaleWildlife officials discovered and uncovered a little mystery of their own at one purveyor of hot snacks, though.

It all started with the sale of deer to Fred Thomas Atkins, 49, of White County and the investigation took off from there. Wildlife officers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission eventually arrested Atkins and his wife, Betty Louise Williams, 28, on Feb. 27 on several wildlife violations including allegedly using wild animals, such as deer, to make tamales in their roadside stand.

Atkins and Williams were arrested at their tamale stand on Arkansas Highway 16 between Searcy and Pangburn. The couple was issued citations for several game violations including buying and selling wildlife.

If convicted, Atkins and Williams would face fines up to $5,000 on each count and up to a year in jail. The two were taken to the White County Detention Center in Searcy.

The six-week investigation targeted the couple after undercover wildlife officers sold several deer to Atkins. The wildlife officers also purchased tamales suspected of being made with deer meat. Officers from the White County Sheriff’s Office and investigators with the Central Arkansas Drug Task Force, along with the AGFC, were involved in the investigation.

Capt. Bill Howell of the AGFC said the individuals were gathering as many illegal deer as they could get.

“It was not only the wildlife violations that we were concerned about, but also the health concerns,” Howell said. “It was a great team effort by several agencies to protect Arkansas’s valuable natural resources and allow the public to safely enjoy them.”

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