MILLARD COUNTY, Utah (KTVX) – A Utah hunting guide is facing charges that he baited a bear for a hunt with Donald Trump Jr. in 2018.
Authorities say Wade Cox Lemon, 61, faces two charges of wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony, related to two separate hunts.
In the first incident, court documents say Lemon, a licensed hunting guide, allegedly led Trump Jr. on a successful bear hunt on May 18, 2018 in central Utah.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Services (DWR) confirms that Trump Jr. applied for a permit for a “2018 Harvest Target Cougar License and a 2018 Harvest Target Bear License.” 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 he allegedly heard Lemon on radio traffic saying, “let the dogs go.”
The witness had seen Lemon and the group of hunters, knowing that they were looking 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 meters up the road, the witness found a “heap of cereals, oil and pastries”.
A trail camera was also found tied to a nearby tree facing the bait. The camera had the letters “WLH” written on it, along with Lemon’s phone number.
When DWR officers arrived at the scene of the bait, they discovered that the trail camera had been turned off with the SD card removed. DWR also noticed that the bait was half eaten at the time.
During the investigation, several sub-guides said they “knew the bear was baited on the property where it was chased on May 18.” A sub-guide said Lemon “always keeps bear bait stations on this particular property.”
The sub-guide mentioned that a few weeks before the hunt in question, Lemon told him “it’s time to get some stuff out there.” They also admitted to “refreshing the bear bait as instructed”.
“Utah law prohibits 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.”
Although conservation officers found evidence of bait at the scene and dogs were used in the hunt after being tipped, DWR officials said they “felt we needed further evidence “to prove what had happened.
“The case has been closed, pending further evidence. In later reviewing this investigative report, we wanted to better understand certain aspects of the investigation, which led us to request a review by the Utah Attorney General’s Office in 2020. An external review by a third 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 accused Lemon of leading customers on “canned hunts – a hunt where the paying customer is taken after the animal has already been located.”
In this incident, a witness accused Lemon of improperly using dogs to trap a cougar for a paying client in Sandy, Utah.
“Utah law requires that [w]When 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 continue to participate in the hunt thereafter until ‘until the hunt is over,’ the court documents state.
A phone conversation shows dogs were released before Lemon arrived at the cougar’s location. Investigators were present when they saw Lemon and a group of hunters approach the cougar that had been “treed” and shoot the animal.
During questioning, the hunt client told authorities he ‘had no idea the hunt was canned and did not realize the puma had already been located before it arrived’ .