Utah DWR to auction antlers and furs from poached wildlife

Distinctive antlers from the Rabbi buck, poached in 2011, will be sold to the highest bidder Monday

(Courtesy photo by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources) Antlers from poached animals are on display at the Lee Kay Public Shooting Range in Salt Lake City for DWR's last auction in 2016. Wildlife officials are again auctioning antlers on April 25.

The antlers from the deceased mule deer known as “The Rabbi” and dozens of other illegally killed game animals will be auctioned Monday by Utah wildlife officials to raise money for conservation and awareness of poaching.

The public is invited to view the materials Monday starting from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Lee Kay Public Shooting Range, 6000 W. 2100 South in Salt Lake City.

“Most all of the items that we have for auction are items that were illegally taken,” said Capt. Chad Bettridge, an enforcement officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). “Antlers from animals that were illegally killed, some of the hides and furs that were illegally taken. We’ve seized those as evidence in an investigation, and they’ve gone through the court process.”

Poaching takes a heavy toll in Utah every year when game animals are killed out of season, by an improperly licensed hunter, or by prohibited means. In 2019, poachers killed nearly 300 big game animals, according to DWR.

DWR’s antler auctions generally take place every four years, although the last was held back in 2016.

Most of the antlers are in pairs attached to the skull and will be sold in lots. Most are from mule deer and elk, although some are from moose and pronghorn. Bison heads will also be sold, as well as bows and traps that were confiscated from errant hunters and trappers and dozens of bobcat furs.

“Some of these items are going to be roadkill animals,” Bettridge said. “We’re going to separate all the antlers out into lots, for the most part, and auction off a lot one by one. It’ll be a set of pretty-good-size antlers with some smaller antlers in a lot.”

Bidding will start around $20 or $25.

“Some of them are taxidermy antlers on a mounted head,” Bettridge said. “Those will be auctioned off by themselves.”

The sale’s marquee item is the rack recovered from a taxidermist during DWR’s 2011 investigation into the illegal killing of the Rabbi buck, a trophy mule deer that roamed the Traverse Mountains near Camp Williams.

A Taylorsville man was ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution for killing the well-known buck and leaving its headless carcass by a road.

“The money that we generate from this goes back into conservation programs and projects,” Bettridge said. “It’s earmarked to go back into protecting animals and doing things for the big game.”

The auction will be held online through TNT Auction starting Monday afternoon and will run through Tuesday. Bidders must preregister on TNT’s website, and successful bidders must pay for and remove their merchandise by 7 p.m. Tuesday.