Sheep hunt may end up breaking bank
BY CHRIS YOUNG, COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
SPRINGFIELD - Trophy hunters may pay as much as $20,000 to undertake a legal hunt for the highly prized stone sheep.
Breaking the rules can cost even more.
Darren K. Leggett, 38, of Clinton pleaded guilty Thursday before Magistrate Judge Byron Cudmore in U.S. District Court in Springfield to transporting a protected wild sheep he illegally killed in British Columbia, Canada, in 1999.
Leggett faces up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in prison for violation of the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits transport of wildlife killed or possessed in violation of state or foreign laws. He will be sentenced June 19.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents, Leggett killed a trophy male stone sheep without the hunting licenses and permits required by British Columbia law.
Leggett's Canadian guide tagged the sheep as his own, but gave the hide and horns to Leggett, who returned home and displayed the mounted trophy at his residence.
British Columbia officials investigating the guide discovered Leggett's business card with a note on the back saying he wanted to hunt a stone sheep and pay $6,500, according to Tim Santel, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Springfield.
Stone sheep are not endangered, "but they are highly regulated in their countries due to high demand from hunters," Santel said Friday.
"They are highly prized by big-game hunters trying to complete the grand slam of sheep."
Hunters completing a grand slam must take one sheep each of four species: stone, Dall, Rocky Mountain bighorn and desert bighorn.
Hunts usually cost $15,000-$20,000 due to the inaccessibility of the stone sheep's high mountain range. Hunters sometimes must travel by helicopter, Santel said.
"It's a high-dollar hunt for sure," he said.
Stone sheep occupy a small range in the Yukon and are found in much of northern British Columbia. They occur sporadically in the southern part of the province.
The sheep cling to sheer mountain faces. Males do not develop large horns until they are 5 to 7 years old.
Canadian authorities have asked U.S. wildlife authorities to investigate several U.S. hunters who are believed to have unlawfully hunted trophy animals north of the border. Animals sought by the hunters included mountain goat, stone sheep, moose, cougar and grizzly bear.
Santel said three other people from northern Illinois have yet to be charged.
"The trophy has been forfeited," he said of Leggett's sheep. "Normally when we seize evidence, we try to utilize it in an educational setting."
Santel said assistant U.S. attorney Steve Sanchez of Springfield procured search warrants, filed charges, prosecuted the case and negotiated the plea agreement.
As part of the plea, Leggett is cooperating with U.S. and Canadian officials. Santel said it is up to Canadian authorities whether or not Leggett will face charges there.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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