SEELEY LAKE – Two men faced criminal trespass charges this spring in Missoula County Justice Court from an incident that occurred on March 22, 2022 on Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area (WMA), south of Seeley Lake, Montana.
Ivan Yarmolich of Missoula and Logan Baston of Anchorage, Alaska entered the WMA during a closed season to look for shed antlers. The property, along with many Montana WMAs, is closed to the public from late fall to early spring to help reduce stress on wintering wildlife.
FWP Criminal Investigator Justin Singleterry said, “Yarmolich and Baston were trespassing on the WMA nearly two months before the public opener to hunt for elk shed antlers. Antlers can weigh anywhere from five to 15 pounds on average and fetch about $15 to $20 per pound from an antler buyer.”
The Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA opens to the public at noon on May 15 each year, with many lining up to hunt for shed antlers.
On June 20, 2023, Yarmolich entered a guilty plea and received a $585 fine, along with two years loss of hunting, fishing, trapping privileges, and two years ban from Montana WMAs. The revocation of Yarmolich’s hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges is recognized by 48 U.S. member states of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. In May 2023, Baston settled for a deferred prosecution agreement and was banned from WMAs for six months.
“This was not the first time Yarmolich has been caught trespassing to steal antlers,” Singleterry said. “He was federally charged and prosecuted for a 2013 trespass onto the National Bison Range and then again in 2014 for trespassing on the Sun River Wildlife Management Area owned by FWP.”
Due to the popularity and value of shed hunting, FWP wardens have seen an increase in trespass on WMAs during the closed season. People entering WMAs during closed seasons can disrupt wildlife during their more vulnerable times. Trespass also takes opportunity away from others.
FWP game wardens work to deter trespassing on WMAs by sharing information about the importance of winter closures to wildlife and by monitoring closed areas through patrols, using remote cameras, and other surveillance techniques.
Anyone with possible information about crimes involving fish, wildlife or park regulations is encouraged to visit myfwp.mt.gov/fwpPub/tipmont to provide details or call the FWP violation reporting hot line at 1-800-TIP-MONT(1-800-847-6668). Callers may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.