As shed antler hunting and the market for shed antlers become more and more popular, so too, do shady methods used in obtaining them. Such is the case with a major deer and elk antler theft in Manti Utah.
Increasingly, there are people like Dave Jorgensen who depend on collecting antlers, not as a hobby, but as an actual source of income. "It pays bills," Jorgensen told the Deseret News. "It keeps my wife home, so she can be a stay-at-home mom, and it is a job for her and myself, so we depend on the income from this."
The majority of the antlers he collects are sold in bulk overseas where the market for them in medicine is big in Asia.
So when he went out to his supply and found over 1,500 pounds missing earlier this week, the family had real reason to be worried. "I was shocked, and I was scared, wondering what we were going to do," Kristen Jorgensen told the Deseret News.
Clearly the antler thief or thieves knew exactly what they were doing. Dave Jorgensen noted they targeted the higher-quality antlers in his inventory. These antlers were worth an estimated $20,000.
After contacting police, the Jorgensens decided to get the word out via social media. Their post giving details of the crime was quickly shared on Facebook more than 600 times.
"As soon as it hit social media, it was overwhelming the support we had, and the texts and phone calls from random people trying to help us," Dave Jorgensen told the Deseret News.
They didn't know it at the time, but social media would play a key role in the apprehension of the thief in more ways than one.
The alleged thief, a man named Brennon Golding, made the job of police a whole lot easier that morning. While word was spreading about the thef, Golding allegedly couldn't resist putting a photo of what appeared to be the stolen antlers on social media himself.
"He put a post on Snapchat that morning with a quote that said, 'Going to pay for my college this fall' today with a picture of our antlers in the back of his truck," Jorgensen said.
With a possible suspect identified, it didn't take police long to locate and arrest Golding near Mt. Pleasant. Police found antlers in the back of Golding's truck and were able to connect them back to the Jorgensen property thanks to markings on the antlers.
The Jorgensens definitely had a day of mixed emotions in the theft and arrest of the alleged thief.
"It kind of confirmed my lack of trust in humanity, but then the phone calls started coming in...It was humbling to see the support we had from people we didn't even know," Jorgensen told the Deseret News.
The antler theft is another in a string of cases involving wildlife or wildlife parts recently that have been cracked thanks to thieves posting about their crimes on social media. Earlier this month, authorities arrested two men who bragged about poaching a python in China.
Law enforcement officials probably really enjoy how much easier their job is when the criminals give such incriminating information out freely on the internet!
Images via the Deseret News.