CEDAR CITY — A Washington County man is facing a felony charge related to a poaching case in Iron County last year, according to court records.
Ethan Morris Lebaron, 29, was charged in 5th District Court with wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony, and tagging requirement violation, a class B misdemeanor, on Nov. 15. A preliminary hearing in the case was set for March 24 during an initial court hearing Feb. 4.
The charges are in relation to a trophy buck that was poached near Quichapa Canyon northwest of Kanarraville on Aug. 20, 2019. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials said a buck with antlers that measured 24½ inches was killed after three men used archery equipment and a spotlight to kill the buck.
The incident was witnessed by another individual who called the division’s UTIP poaching hotline, said DWR spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley. Two conservation officers arrived at the scene, where they found the men and the dead deer. The men were interviewed at the time and the deer carcass was seized.
Iron County prosecutors are still screening charges for two other men who were interviewed by conservation officers in relation to the incident, according to Jolley.
Poaching charges range in severity based on the animal and even the size of antlers. In this case, the buck’s antlers were large enough to bump it up to a felony case. Someone found guilty of poaching can face fines, cost of restitution, loss of hunting privileges in 49 of 50 U.S. states, or even jail time, according to the DWR’s website. A buck with 24-inch antlers or more in size results in a minimum of $8,000 in restitution.
Court records show Lebaron had some previous criminal history. He pleaded guilty to burglary and theft, both second-degree felonies, in 2014 in relation to a series of thefts in Hurricane between November 2012 and June 2013. He was ordered to pay more than $40,000 in restitution in the case but was not sentenced to any jail time, according to records.
In a statement, DWR Law Enforcement Chief Justin Shirley credited the person who used UTIP to report the case. The deer killed was one of the 1,050 animals that were illegally killed in Utah last year.
“Poaching is always a problem in Utah. It’s something that our officers spend a lot of time investigating and dealing with. I think 2019 was a fairly busy year for our officers,” DWR Sgt. Chad Bettridge told KSL.com last month.
In addition to the UTIP hotline (1-800-662-3337), people can also dial *DEER from their cellphone or use DWR’s online portal to report poaching.