Wildlife Officers Notice What Man Was Finding in the Forest; Now He’s Banned from Hunting and Owes $15,000

A Montana man is facing criminal penalties after collecting elk antlers in violation of federal wildlife laws. The U.S. Forest Service announced that Joshua Anders Rae of Bozeman, Montana, was convicted of violating the Lacey Act by illegally collecting elk antlers in Wyoming in April 2021. Rae was sentenced in October 2022, with the federal agency itself touting his penalty in an April news release. A Forest Service investigation found that Rae was collecting the elk antlers during a time when such activity is prohibited. Law enforcement patrolling federal lands in April 2021 discovered Rae “hiding illegally collected antlers under the cover of darkness,” according to federal authorities. Rae’s poaching took place in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. By collecting the antlers out of season, Rae deprived law-abiding outdoorsmen of equal opportunity at the valuable items. It’s believed that Rae sought to profit by poaching the antlers, which the animals naturally shed. Rae operated an online elk antler dog chew business, according to the Forest Service. In a bizarre twist, this wasn’t Rae’s first rodeo in a courtroom for violating federal anti-poaching laws. The wildlife profiteer was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation, a five-year ban from the National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton National Forest, and Yellowstone Nation Park, and $15,000 in fines for illegally transporting 104 pounds of elk antlers in 2019, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release. Rae had yet to pay off his federal fine when he was caught for the second time. The repeat offender is facing even more severe penalties after his first poaching conviction didn’t teach him a lesson. As a condition of his sentence, Rae will be banned from entering federal lands for five years, according to Cowboy State Daily. He also was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement and five years of supervised probation. Rae is also banned from hunting — anywhere — for five years as a term of his sentence. This year, hunters are authorized to collect shed elk antlers on May 15 across the state, according to Cowboy State Daily. The Wyoming legislature passed a law that will give residents of the state a head start during the 2024 antler collection season. The Lacey Act, signed in 1900 by President William McKinley, penalizes the transport and sale of illegally collected wildlife and animal parts. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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