SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — This year's winning bidder to hunt a mule deer buck on Antelope Island paid a whopping $390,000, and that was just for the right to score one set of antlers.
The amount paid by the 24-year-old guide from Canada marked a record in the five-year history of the program run by the Salt Lake City-based Mule Deer Foundation.
The other winning bids have been big, too. Since 2011, hunters have paid more than $1.4 million to the foundation in the auctions, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The money goes to wildlife conservation on the island in the middle of the Salt Lake.
“Some of the money raised from the auctions helps us run the show, but the majority of it goes to conservation projects to help all wildlife,” said Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-based Mule Deer Foundation. “These auctions are helping to conserve wildlife across the country.”
The winning bid by Troy Lorenz, a 24-year-old guide from Prince George, British Columbia, came during a recent Western Hunting & Conservation Expo held at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Expo officials say Lorenz also won the bid for a statewide mule deer hunting tag in Arizona, paying $320,000.
The Utah program started in 2011 when, after years of public opposition, lawmakers finally approved the hunt on Antelope Island State Park. Utah legislators mandated that 90 percent of the funds go to conservation projects on the island. They also auctioned permits to hunt a bighorn sheep, which went for $85,000 this year, and a moose, which went for $90,000.
The money has been a boon for wildlife on the island, Antelope Island State Park Manager Jeremy Shaw said. Because of it, funding has gone to restoring freshwater springs, installing water catchments and planting native species such as sagebrush and Mexican cliffrose.
“There is no way we could have done the number of conservation projects on the island that we have without this money,” Shaw said.
The money was also used to transplant 200 mule deer from the island to other spots in the state, attaching radio collars to the deer for a research project. Moving those deer has helped keep the population on the island close around 350-450, which is considered ideal.
So far, Antelope Island State Park has only used about one-third of the proceeds. That's led some to suggest the money should be used for conservation projects in other parts of the state. However, redirecting funds would require approval from Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com