Have You Herd? Montana Man Pleads Guilty to Breeding Giant Sheep

Just when ewe thought it was safe to go back to Montana, now we see that a Montana Man is giving Florida Man a run for his money, and having a baaad time. A Vaughn, Montana man, one Arthur “Jack” Schubarth, has pled guilty to breeding giant hybrid sheep.

Yes, really.

According to court documents, Schubarth conspired with at least five other individuals between 2013 and 2021 to create a larger hybrid species of sheep that would garner higher prices from shooting preserves. Schubarth brought parts of the largest sheep in the world, Marco Polo argali sheep (Ovis ammon polii), from Kyrgyzstan into the United States without declaring the importation. Average males can weigh more than 300 pounds with horns that span more than five feet. Marco Polo argali are native to the high elevations of the Pamir region of Central Asia. They are protected internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, domestically by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are prohibited in the State of Montana to protect native sheep from disease and hybridization.

The wisdom of breeding giant mutant sheep aside, the purpose Schubarth had in creating these sheep was more concerning:

“This was an audacious scheme to create massive hybrid sheep species to be sold and hunted as trophies,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “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.”

Setting aside for the moment the stupidity of carelessly introducing invasive species into any environment, there is a practice known as a “canned hunt,” in which people — I will not call them sportsmen — pay to shoot a captive, or at least captive-bred animal. This is a complete violation of the principle of fair chase, one of the most important ethical principles by which honest sportsmen abide; we hunt only wild, free-ranging game, with all of their instincts and learned ways of evading predators intact.

Ethics, the saying goes, is what we do when no one is watching. Hunters and other outdoor types spend a lot of time out where nobody is watching. That makes the ethics of hunting — fair chase, where a hunter is pitted against an animal on the animal’s home ground, with the human hunter’s arms and wits against the game’s vastly superior senses, instincts, and knowledge of the environment — even more important. Human hunters pursuing deer, elk, and moose generally realize success rates between 10 and 25 percent, so it’s easy to see who holds the real advantage.

Schubarth had better feel sheepish about being involved in any of these schemes. I mean, the shear audacity of the man!

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Fortunately, he faces a pretty wild and woolly punishment:

For each felony count, Schubarth faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release. Schubarth is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11 by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Morris for the District of Montana.

Schubarth may have been looking to score enough cash to buy a Lamborghini, but fortunately, he was unable to keep his operation sheep-shape. Now he has an unwelcome relationsheep with the authorities, and unless he goes on the lamb, he will be spending some time in new surroundings, which will be anything but glamborous.

This seems appropriate.

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