MILLARD COUNTY, Utah (KTVX) — A Utah hunting guide is facing charges of baiting a bear for a hunt with Donald Trump Jr. in 2018.
Authorities say Wade Cox Lemon, 61, is facing two charges of accused wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony, relating to two separate hunts.
In the first incident, court documents explain Lemon, a licensed hunting guide, reportedly led Trump Jr. on a successful bear hunt on May 18, 2018, in central Utah.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Services (DWR) confirms Trump Jr. had applied for a permit for a “2018 harvest objective cougar permit and 2018 harvest objective bear permit.” At this time, there is no indication that Trump Jr. was aware of the illegal nature of the hunt.
An eyewitness reported the hunt to DWR after allegedly overhearing Lemon on radio traffic saying, “let the dogs go.”
The witness had seen Lemon and the hunting party, knowing they were searching for bears. The witness “observed that a section of dirt road had been dragged with a log to prepare the road to show a bear track.” About 30 yards down the road, the witness found a “pile of grain, oil, and pastries.”
A trail camera was also found strapped to a nearby tree facing the bait. The camera had the letters ‘WLH’ written on it, along with Lemon’s phone number.
When DWR agents arrived at the bait scene, they discovered the trail camera had been turned off with the SD card removed. DWR also noticed the bait was half-eaten at the time.
While investigating, several sub-guides said they “knew the bear was baited to the property where it was pursued on May 18.” One sub-guide said Lemon “always keeps bear bait spots on this particular property.”
The sub-guide mentioned that a few weeks before the hunt in question, Lemon allegedly told him “that it was time to get stuff out there.” They also admitted to “freshening up the bear bait as instructed.”
“Utah law forbids luring bears to a bait station and then pursuing the animal with dogs,” authorities say. “The end of the hunt is recorded showing the bear surrounded by a pack of hunting dogs before the client shoots and kills the animal.”
Despite conservation officers finding evidence of bait on the scene and that dogs had been used in the hunt after receiving a tip, DWR officials said they “felt we needed additional evidence” to prove what had happened.
“The case was closed, pending being able to obtain any additional evidence. In later reviewing this investigation report, there were aspects of the investigation that we wanted to better understand, which led us to request a review by the Utah Attorney General’s office in 2020. An external, third-party review is standard in circumstances like this,” DWR explained.
The additional evidence gathered resulted in Lemon’s third-degree felony charge.
Lemon also faces charges for allegedly breaking hunting laws during a cougar hunt in 2021.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office has accused Lemon of guiding clients on “canned hunts — a hunt where the paying client is brought in after the animal has already been located.”
In this incident, a witness accused Lemon of using dogs incorrectly to entrap a cougar for a paying client from Sandy, Utah.
“Utah law requires that [w]hen dogs are used in the pursuit of a cougar, the licensed hunter intending to take the cougar must be present when the dogs are released and must continuously participate in the hunt thereafter until the hunt is completed,” court documents state.
A phone conversation shows dogs were released prior to Lemon arriving at the cougar’s location. Investigators were present when witnessing Lemon and a hunting party approach the cougar that had been “treed” and shooting the animal.
During questioning, the hunting client told authorities he “had no idea the hunt was canned and did not realize the mountain lion had already been located before he arrived.”