Home » Montana man pleads guilty after creating giant hybrid sheep and selling them for captive hunting: DOJ

Montana man pleads guilty after creating giant hybrid sheep and selling them for captive hunting: DOJ

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A Vaughn, Montana, livestock ranch owner pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to running a scheme to create, breed and sell giant sheep to be captive hunting facilities where they could ultimately be killed.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that 80-year-old Arthur “Jack” Schubarth pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and substantially violating it.

The Lacey Act prohibits the interstate trade of wildlife that has been taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of federal or state law, though it also prohibits the sale of wildlife that is falsely labeled. The law was created to combat wildlife tracking and to prevent the ecological invasion of injurious wildlife.

The DOJ said Schubarth is the owner and operator of a 215-acre alternative livestock ranch known as Schubarth Ranch, which engages in the purchase, breeding and sale of “alternative livestock,” like mountain goats and mountain sheep.


Schubarth would sell the livestock to captive hunting operations or shooting preserves and game ranches.

“This was an audacious scheme to create massive hybrid sheep species to be sold and hunted as trophies,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said. “In pursuit of this scheme, Schubarth violated international law and the Lacey Act, both of which protect the viability and health of native populations of animals.”

Between 2013 and 2021, Schubarth and at least five other conspirators worked to create a larger hybrid species of sheep to potentially bring in higher prices from game ranches, the DOJ said.

To create the giant sheep, Schubarth paid to get parts of the Marco Polo argali sheep — the largest sheep in the world — from Kyrgyzstan to the U.S. and did not declare the importation.


Bighorn Sheep

The DOJ said Marco Polo sheep can grow to over 300 pounds with horns spanning over 5 feet wide. The sheep are native to the Pamir region of Central Asia, at high elevations.

Schubarth was accused of sending genetic material from the sheep parts to a lab in order to create cloned embryos, which were then placed in ewes on his ranch. As a result, a single, pure male, Marco Polo was created, which he named “Montana Mountain King,” or “MMK.”


Bighorn Sheep

Schubarth and the co-conspirators sometimes used MMK’s semen to impregnate other species of ewes artificially, to create hybrid animals. The species of ewes Schubarth and others would artificially impregnate were prohibited in Montana, according to the DOJ.

Schubarth had hoped to sell the larger, more valuable sheep to game ranches, mostly in Texas.

But to get past shipping the animals out of Montana, Schubarth and others allegedly forged inspection certificates from veterinarians and falsely claimed they were a permitted species. In other cases, Schubarth sold semen from MMK to sheep breeders in other states, the DOJ said.

He is also accused in court documents of illegally obtaining genetic material from Rock Mountain bighorn sheep in Montana.

“The kind of crime we uncovered here could threaten the integrity of our wildlife species in Montana,” Ron Howell, Chief of Enforcement for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said. “This was a complex case and the partnership between us and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was critical in solving it.”

Schubarth faces up to five years in prison for each felony count, along with a fine up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

Read the full article here

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