Bozeman man pleads guilty to felony charge
Unlawful collection of shed elk antlers
WESTERN WYOMING — On October 25, 2022, a Bozeman, Montana resident, formerly of Jackson, WY, was sentenced on a felony Lacey Act charge, along with federal misdemeanor probation violations in connection with illegal collection of shed elk antlers on the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
An investigation initiated by U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations in April 2021, revealed Joshua Anders Rae of Bozeman, Montana, was collecting shed elk antlers outside legal dates for areas west of the continental divide in Wyoming. In April 2021, Law Enforcement Officers patrolling a winter range closure outside Jackson, WY encountered Rae hiding illegally collected antlers under the cover of darkness. The longstanding closure was established to protect wintering deer and elk. Rae, who entered the closure by traveling cross country a significant distance, was present in the area the day before the legal opening date, thus depriving numerous shed hunting enthusiasts of equal enjoyment and opportunity during the highly regulated opening day event outside Jackson, WY.
The investigation revealed Rae was the owner/ operator of “Old West Antlers,” an on-line elk antler dog chew retailer, which also provided elk antler dog chew retail display cases to businesses in the mountain west. Rae had cut approximately 44 pounds of illegally collected elk antlers into short sections, some of which were consistent with those sold through his online enterprise. The April 2021 violations occurred while Rae was on federal probation for a 2019 misdemeanor Lacey Act conviction for the same offense in the same area. In the previous case Rae was sentenced to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, subjected to a 5-year ban from entering the National Elk Refuge, as well as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, in addition to 5 years’ probation and a 5 year worldwide ban on hunting.
The latest investigation revealed Rae had yet to pay any of the court ordered restitution on the previous case. In March 2022, Rae was indicted by a federal grand jury for a felony violation of the Lacey Act, a federal law regulating the illegal take and commercialization of wildlife and wildlife parts. He was additionally charged with two misdemeanor federal violations for entering a closed area and collection of shed antlers out of season. In July 2022, Rae entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court for a violation of the Lacey Act. During the October sentencing, he entered a second guilty plea for probation violations. Rae was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement, 5 years of supervised felony probation, a 5-year ban from entering federal public lands, as well as a 5-year ban on hunting in accordance with the interstate wildlife violator compact.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The Bridger-Teton National Forest would like to remind shed antler collectors to observe all state and federal regulations pertaining to season dates, and closures for protection of wintering wildlife.