A Farmer Caught Breeding Illegal “Mutant” Sheep For Hunts

(NewsReady.com) – It’s not unusual for ranchers to purchase animals for their land. The owners of private hunting preserves do it as well. One man saw an opportunity to create “mutant” sheep to sell to some of those preserves. He’s now entered a plea.

On March 12, the Department of Justice announced that Arthur “Jack” Schubarth of Vaughn, Montana, pleaded guilty to substantively violating the Lacey Act and conspiring to violate the Lacey Act. According to prosecutors, the 80-year-old is the owner of Schubarth Ranch. The 215-acre livestock ranch purchased, sold, and bred “alternative livestock” like mountain goats, mountain sheep, and different kinds of hoofed mammals.

Schubarth conspired with at least five other people between 2013 and 2021 to create a new giant species of mountain sheep that would be sold for more money to private shooting preserves. In 2019, the rancher paid a hunting guide $400 for the testicles he cut off of a trophy-sized Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that was killed in Montana. He also visited Kyrgyzstan and brought parts of a giant sheep breed, the Marco Polo argali sheep, back to America without declaring them.

The Marco Polo argali is protected in the US by the Endangered Species Act and internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. They are not allowed in Montana in order to protect the native sheep. Still, the defendant used genetic material from the sheep parts to create cloned embryos.

Schubarth created a male Marco Polo argali, that was genetically pure. He named the sheep the “Montana Mountain King.” Then, he used the sheep’s semen to impregnate other sheep and create hybrids. He also sent the semen directly to breeders in other states.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim called it an “audacious scheme” to make the “massive hybrid sheep species.” He said the defendant violated federal and international laws intended to “protect the viability and health of native populations of animals.”

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