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(ANCHORAGE, AK) – On Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Homer district court sentenced Anchor Point resident Rusty Counts in a wildlife case involving the poaching and wasting of three bull moose. The defendant was convicted of a total of 21 counts. The defendant was sentenced to pay over $100,000, spend nine months in jail, forfeit the rifle and ATV used in the offenses, and his hunting license was suspended for three years.
During a two week period in the fall of 2018, Alaska Wildlife Troopers in the Anchor Point area received two reports of moose that had been shot and left to rot in the field, with very little of the edible meat salvaged from the animals. Troopers investigated and were able to identify Rusty Counts as a suspect after witnesses provided a photo of Counts riding away from the scene on a four-wheeler. During the investigation, troopers learned that Counts had poached a third moose, in addition to the two that were already reported. Counts was ultimately charged and convicted on 21 counts, including three counts of wanton waste, three counts of taking a moose during a closed season, unlawful possession of game, three counts of failing to validate a harvest ticket, three counts of failing to seal antlers, three counts of failing to report harvest, two counts of taking over limit of moose, and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
On December 6, 2018, the defendant was sentenced by the district court in Homer. The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson, from the Department of Law, Office of Special Prosecutions, argued that this was one of the most egregious poaching cases seen by wildlife troopers in decades. In requesting the sentence, Mr. Peterson argued that “given the severity of the offenses the court should find that no punishment short of a lengthy jail sentence, substantial fine, and forfeiture of the instrumentalities will adequately deter others from engaging in a similar slaughter.”
“Alaska is one of the last places on earth where a person can hunt big game in their own backyard. People from all over the world dream of coming here to spend a week doing what we do each fall.” said Mr. Peterson. “That will only remain true if game management regulations are taken seriously and the punishment for poaching and wasting animals is severe. The State of Alaska takes wildlife crimes seriously and the public should know that if a poacher kills and wastes big game animals he will be sentenced to a significant jail term, a substantial fine, he will be ordered to pay restitution, and the vehicles and instrumentalities used in the crime will be forfeit.”
The court imposed a sentence including 270 days incarceration, a $97,650 fine, $3,000 in restitution, forfeiture of the rifle and ATV used in the offenses to the State of Alaska, and a three-year hunting license suspension.
The case was investigated by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers from the Anchor Point post.
Source: Alaska Department of Law