Montana Ranch Owner Pleads Guilty to Lacey Act Violations in Pursuit of Giant Sheep for Hunting

Montana Ranch Owner Pleads Guilty to Lacey Act Violations in Pursuit of Giant Sheep for Hunting

Arthur “Jack” Schubarth, an 80-year-old resident of Vaughn, Montana, and owner of Sun River Enterprises LLC, pleaded guilty to two felony wildlife crimes.

The charges involve a conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and substantive violations of the Lacey Act, exposing his almost decade-long effort to create giant sheep hybrids for sale to captive hunting facilities.

The Ranch and Its Unlawful Operations

Schubarth Ranch, also known as Sun River Enterprises LLC, spans 215 acres and engages in the purchase, sale, and breeding of “alternative livestock,” including mountain sheep and goats.

The primary market for these animals is captive hunting operations, commonly known as shooting preserves or game ranches.

The Unlawful Hybridization Plan Unveiled

Court documents reveal that Schubarth conspired with at least five individuals between 2013 and 2021 to create a larger hybrid species of sheep.

His goal was to fetch higher prices from shooting preserves, and to achieve this, he imported parts of Marco Polo argali sheep from Kyrgyzstan, the largest sheep globally, without declaring the importation.

Illegal Importation and Cloning: Creating the “Montana Mountain King”

Schubarth sent genetic material from the imported argali sheep to a lab, where cloned embryos were created.

These embryos were then implanted in ewes on his ranch, resulting in the creation of a single, pure genetic male Marco Polo argali, named “Montana Mountain King” or MMK.

Illegal Crossbreeding and Falsified Documents

Working with coconspirators, Schubarth used MMK’s semen to artificially impregnate various prohibited species of ewes, aiming to create larger and more valuable hybrid animals.

To move these prohibited sheep, Schubarth forged veterinary inspection certificates, falsely claiming their legal status.

On occasion, he even sold MMK semen directly to sheep breeders in other states.

Illegal Acquisition of Genetic Material: Violations of Montana Law

Court documents also detail how Schubarth illegally obtained genetic material from wild-hunted Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Montana, violating state laws that prohibit the sale of game animal parts within the state. He transported and sold these bighorn parts in interstate commerce.

Legal Ramifications and Sentencing

Facing charges under the Lacey Act, Schubarth could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release for each felony count.

His sentencing is scheduled for July 11, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana FWP investigating the case.

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