Illegal Bighorn Head Sale Brings Sentences

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The illegal sale of bighorn skulls and horns to Idaho Fish and Game special investigators has brought down heavy fines and penalties on two Challis men.

A Horseshoe Bend man awaits sentencing in the same case but was not in court when the Challis residents were sentenced in Custer County. Felony charges in the case were reduced to misdemeanors in plea agreements. The court cited cooperation on the part of the defendants and the fact that the bighorn heads had been legally collected, not taken by poaching.

Magistrate Charles Roos recently sentenced Daniel E. Woodbridge, 23, to one year in the Custer County jail but suspended the jail time for four years of supervised probation and ordered him to pay $2,715 in fines and court costs and to pay $1,000 in restitution to Fish and Game. Woodbridge pleaded guilty to 15 misdemeanors involving the sale of bighorn skulls.

Michael D. Sheppeard, 44, was sentenced to 30 days of jail time, suspended for one year of unsupervised probation after a plea to 14 misdemeanors. Judge Roos ordered Sheppeard to pay $2,534 in fines and court costs.

Marlen J. (Jim) Mitchell, 22, of Horseshoe Bend agreed to plea to eight counts of aiding and abetting Woodbridge in the sale of the skull. His sentencing date was not announced.

Judge Roos said Woodbridge and Sheppeard stood to make $3,000 in the sale, so he set monetary penalties to match.

Fish and Game special investigators were investigating a mule deer case when they were offered the bighorn heads. Using cash borrowed from the Citizens Against Poaching organization, the agents agreed to a transaction that was videotaped and recorded.

The sale involved nine bighorn heads with horns attached. One head was sold for $1,000 and eight others for $5,000. The heads were collected by the men or others; none of the animals were known to be shot.

Under Idaho law, heads taken in a legal hunt may be sold. Heads found in the field may be kept but cannot be sold, bartered or purchased.

All bighorn horns, whether taken in a legal hunt or found, must be marked with a metal pin by Fish and Game. In this case, the horns on all but one head had been pinned, but the defendants had defaced the pins to obscure their origin, another violation of Idaho law.

The sale, barter or purchase of bighorn horns was banned by law in 1994 in an effort to discourage poaching of bighorn sheep. Bighorn heads can bring thousands of dollars, depending mostly on length of horn curl; one recent sale fetched $50,000.