Vernal Man Sentenced for Possessing Non-Native Sheep on Private Hunting Ranch

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – A man has been sentenced for possessing prohibited, non-native sheep at his private hunting ranch in Colorado.

34-year-old Michael Gates pleaded guilty June 19 to illegally possessing and importing exotic sheep species.

Gates received a one-year deferred judgment sentence.

Authorities say the Vernal, Utah, resident procured the animals for clients to hunt at his ranch near Dinosaur, Colorado.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the animals included Mouflon sheep hybrids, Texas Dall sheep and Painted Desert sheep, which are all prohibited in Colorado.

Wildlife officials say the prohibition protects native wildlife from disease and hybridization with non-native species, as well as protecting domestic sheep and preventing habitat damage.

Gates declined to comment.