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Prepping & Survival

Idaho Man Busted with More Than 1,000 Pounds of Poached Shed Antlers

A 31-year-old man from Twin Falls, Idaho has been assessed a $6,100 fine and a three-year hunting ban for illegal shed hunting on Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge and the Bridger-Teton National Forest during closed season. Jonathan Lee Cox is also banned from setting foot on federal lands in Wyoming for three years as part of his punishment, a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Monday.

“The defendant pled guilty to a felony charge of the attempted transport and sale of more than 1,000 pounds of poached antlers, valued at roughly $18,000,” the FWS press release reads. “Illegally collecting and selling antlers is a violation of the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the transportation and sale of illegally obtained wildlife. The state of Wyoming also forbids off-season antler collection from public lands west of the Continental Divide.”

Shed hunting season west of the Divide starts on May 1, and antler collection is prohibited on the National Elk Refuge year-round. Many shed hunters have been busted in recent years for collecting from the Refuge illegally. Refuge staff, with the help of local Scouting groups, collect antlers from the Refuge for the annual ElkFest auction.

From April 18 through May 7 of 2023, Cox and co-defendant Stanley Cox attempted to “transport and sell 148 shed elk antlers and two intact bull elk skulls having a market value in excess of $350,” court documents acquired by Outdoor Life read. (It is unclear whether those 150 pieces represent the 1,000-plus pounds of bone or if additional antlers and skulls turned up during an investigation.) Both defendants were charged with two counts of attempted unlawful transportation and sale of illegally possessed wildlife. Those two counts could rack up a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. 

Cox originally pled not guilty to both felony charges at his arraignment on Oct. 27, but reversed course and pled guilty to one of the two charges on Dec. 15. He was sentenced on March 11 in Wyoming District Court. 

Most of the court documents remain sealed, and there has been no mention of sentencing for co-defendant Stanley Cox. But one document alludes to the fact that an investigator with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department offered expert testimony following a search of the defendants’ cell phones. Another document details how Cox received a reimbursement from the U.S. Marshal for the cost of travel to and lodging in Cheyenne for the change-of-plea hearing. 

This isn’t the first time a 31-year-old man named Jonathan Lee Cox from Twin Falls, Idaho has shown up in the outdoor media recently. A man by the same name, age, and hometown is also allegedly a Guinness World Record-holding BASE jumper and ultra runner who made headlines after completing 102 self-supported BASE jumps in 24 hours off the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls in September 2023. He’s posted photos of shed antlers to his Instagram account.  

Shed hunting violations have become a bigger issue than ever before. Demand for antlers is extremely high, and consumers are paying top dollar for everything from dog chews to knives with antler handles, FWS says.

Read Next: Thieves Are Stealing More and More Racks From Hunters in the West — and Their Profits Keep Growing

“These types of violations are an ongoing problem, as the market value of antlers keeps going up, we are experiencing more theft and trespassing on the Elk Refuge,” David Bonham, FWS regional chief of refuge law enforcement, says in the FWS press release. “The opening of the shed antler season is a big deal out here, for quite a while. We send 5 to 7 additional officers to the Refuge for this event each year to serve as first responders. Our goal is to make sure everyone stays safe and prepared for whatever the conditions may be.” 

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