The big sheep: Rancher pleads guilty in cloning-and-hunting scheme

By Michael Doyle | 03/15/2024 01:34 PM EDT

An 80-year-old Montana rancher was behind a wild effort to breed and hunt mega-sized sheep. He could be hit with fines and possible prison time.

A sheep nicknamed Montana Mountain King that was part of a scheme to create large, hybrid species of wild sheep for sale.

A sheep nicknamed Montana Mountain King, part of a scheme to create large, hybrid species of wild sheep for sale to hunting preserves in Texas. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks via AP

An 80-year-old Montana man faces a possible prison term as well as a hefty fine after admitting to an ambitious scheme to breed giant sheep for hunting in private Texas preserves.

Prominent at one time in some of the state’s ranching-related debates, Arthur “Jack” Schubarth pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal felony charges of wildlife trafficking and conspiring to commit wildlife trafficking.

“The kind of crime we uncovered here could threaten the integrity of our wildlife species in Montana,” Ron Howell, chief of enforcement for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, said in a statement. He added, without exaggeration, “This was a complex case.”


The nearly decadelong effort involved the obtaining of sheep genes from Kyrgyzstan, cloning, illegal insemination and the trafficking of sheep parts, namely testicles.