A guide accused of unlawfully trapping a black bear by Donald Trump Jr. during a bear hunt trip in Utah has been accused.
Wade Cox Lemon, 61, of Millard County, was charged with “wanton destruction of protected animals,” a 3rd-degree felony, by the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The Davis County Attorney’s Office brought the complaint account of the AG’s office.
According to court records, Lemon “actually accompanied a customer on a nice bear hunt” in Carbon County on May 18, 2018.
After the bear hunt party left, a “concerned witness” alerted the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and reported finding “a mound of grain, oil, and pastries” in the region. Lemon’s name and contact information were written on half-eaten baits before a trail camera, according to DWR agents.
The party was also seen hunting with dogs, according to the witness. The witness and DWR agents also stated that there was loose straw on a nearby road, which they said is typically used to line the cages of hunting dogs being transported.
That day, Lemon’s customer checked the bear in at a DWR station.
Investigators noted in the court stated that “the finish of the bear hunt is filmed displaying the bear encircled by a group of hunting dogs before the client fatally shoots the animal.” “It is illegal in Utah to lure bears to a bait station and then chase them with dogs.”
“Acquire or utilize bait or other attractants to seize restricted wildlife which is banned in this chapter or a rule, declaration, or order of the Wildlife Board,” according to Utah Code 23-20-3.
Investigators contacted a few of Lemon’s sub-guides, who indicated they understood the bear was lured to the region where it was killed that day, as per the allegations against him. Lemon “usually keeps bear bait places on this specific property,” according to one sub-guide, and Lemon directed him to “get everything out there” a couple of weeks before the hunt.
Although Trump Jr. was not named in the charging filings, an investigation by The Utah Investigative Journalism Project and The Salt Lake Tribune revealed that he was the target that day.
“The client, in this case, was really a victim and is now a prospective witness in a false plot to induce the hunter to think it was actually a valid Wild West hunting situation,” Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said. Trump Jr. killed two animals, according to the DNR: a bear on May 18, 2018, and a cougar on May 19, 2018. On his webpage, Lemon claims that he specializes in guiding black bear and mountain lion hunts with his trained hunting dogs.
While Lemon’s company, “Wade Lemon Hunting,” often uploads images of his clientele with big game kills on Facebook, neither of Trump Jr.’s hunts have been documented.
On May 19, 2018, though, the son of then-President Donald Trump shared images from a “trip in Utah with some excellent pals” on his Instagram account. In contrast, on May 21, 2018, Wade Lemon Hunting uploaded images with Trump Jr., claiming that the two were planning to form “Hunter Nation.”
“Educate the masses about hunting, animals, and habitat,” according to one of the organization’s stated goals.
Big Client’s Big Game
Hunting guides who cater to the affluent have a lot riding on their hunts being successful. These firms hire hunters to scour the woods, deserts, mountains, and grasslands for the largest wildlife, ensuring that these high-profile customers have the best chance of a profitable hunt. Wade Lemon Hunting was probed eight times by the DNR for allegedly breaching the law in order to guarantee a successful hunt, but he was not convicted of a felony until Tuesday.
On May 25, 2009, Hal Stout of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) was examining Lemon’s hunting spots at Nine Mile Canyon in Carbon County for unlawful bear bait. According to the report, Stout was investigating one bait place when “I overheard an ATV and ran for shelter.”
Stout saw a truck with dog kennels drive by and recognized the license plate as belonging to a Lemon employee. After the automobile had passed, the officer discovered two more illegal bait places, one of which contained a dead horse corpse covered in branches and a nearby melon rind. He didn’t have much time to assess the issue before a nearby ruckus caught his eye.
“I heard dogs howling and proceeded in the direction of the sound,” Stout says, recalling hearing one person expressly request “Wade” to bring another person from neighboring cabins out to the area. Although the detective could not observe all of the involved parties since he was hiding, he was certain that someone was brought out to shoot a treed bear.
Lemon’s employees had treed a bear and lit a fire under it to prevent it from fleeing while they waited for their customer to arrive, according to Stout’s report.
“I spotted a chair built of stone at the base as well as between these two trees,” the report says. “Before, I overheard WADE mention that the boys constructed a fire under the tree and made him a chair.”
The inspector documented many infractions of state law in the method in which the bear was trapped in the tree, and the case lingered for years before even being dropped in June 2012. “The level of illegality identified was inadequate to justify disclosing investigative tactics utilized in this case,” according to a notation in the case file.
Lemon would be subjected to additional investigations. DWR Lemon was informed in 2011 that a mountain lion had been treed and that “the lion shooter had his own personal jet and was flying in tomorrow to shoot it.” The location of the murder was eventually discovered by investigators.
Lemon’s organization was probed in 2016 for illegally stealing a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from an off-limits region on Mount Nebo in Utah. Lemon’s business was not held responsible by DWR because the agency had not revised its guidebooks at the time and a DWR staffer had confirmed that they could conduct an organized hunt on the mountaintop.
Many of these incidents are tough to prosecute, according to DNR spokesperson Faith Jolley, because sources don’t always come forward as well as proof of baiting can only be acquired “by getting a warrant to search and establishing trail camera footage of the bait station.”
According to Jolley, DWR personnel generate an average of 2,000 case reports every year for investigations into “illegal wildlife activity.” “The vast majority of these cases end up being reviewed by a county attorney or with an investigation that yields no clues,” Jolley explained.