BILLINGS- There’s a rare opportunity in Billings on Saturday to own some of Montana’s largest trophy antlers, hides, and horns.
For four years, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens have been collecting confiscated, diseased or roadkill carcasses from all of Montana’s seven wildlife regions.
Those items are currently filling up an entire 6,000-square-foot facility to be auctioned off.
Cash Seal is with the National Auction House in Billings getting ready for the big day.
“It’s everything from big elk, you know, there's a couple 390 bulls there's a 380 Bull in here. There are bears, mountain lions, bobcats, moose,” he said.
He’s been working around the clock to get the event ready and expects that hundreds from all corners of Montana and beyond could be in attendance.
Officials expect the event to be widely attended because of the draw it has for antler artists and collectors but also because it's been a while since an FWP auction has taken place.
“It's definitely more merchandise than we were expecting,” said Seal. “The accumulation is a lot, but you know I definitely feel both sides of our auction house.”
But sadly, most of these items come from poaching cases.
Bob Gibson with Fish Wildlife and Parks in Billings says when wardens confiscate a carcass, the meat is donated, and the antlers are removed to be sold at auction.
When enough inventory is collected, FWP schedules an auction. The last auction was held in 2017.
Gibson says it's hard to know the exact number or percentage of poaching cases at the auction because many are still in litigation. But he says if a head or antlers are already placed on a mount, they’re likely illegally taken.
As a hunter himself, Seal says all of this represents both the best and worst of Montana.
“You see how much wild game that Montana has to offer and the quality of animals that comes in, but on the flip side you have the way that all this that was amassed."
But he says the biggest draw for Saturday are bighorn sheep, most of which were taken from Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake after disease struck the herd or some died from old age or predators, according to Gibson.
“Those sheep are really hard to come by and so and there are some really large ones out there. A few of them are over 200 inches,” said Seal.
And some could bring in as much as $3,500 a piece, he said.
Seal says the auction doors open at 9 a.m. and the bidding takes place at 11 a.m.
The National Auction House of Billings is located at 3625 S. 56th St. W. in Billings.
Money collected from the auction goes to FWP’s general license account, which pays for conservation and restoration programs.