An Alaskan poacher is going to have to break open his piggy bank to pay the hefty fine given to him this past week. Thirty-nine-year-old Rusty Counts of Anchor Point will have to cough up over 100K in fines and restitution as well as serve a 9-month jail sentence.
Counts pled guilty to 21 misdemeanors all stemming from his shooting of three moose and leaving them to rot. Prosecutor Aaron Peterson says the state sought hefty penalties as a deterrent to others.
Hunting regulations on the Kenai Peninsula where the moose was killed require moose to have antlers measuring 50-inches. None of the moose met that requirement.
“The working theory is that he realized they were sub-legal and decided not to stick around to salvage the meat,” Peterson said Monday. He called the case one of the most egregious poaching events ever seen by Alaska state wildlife troopers.
Here is what happened according to the Washington Post
The case began Sept. 2 with a tip to wildlife troopers that a sublegal moose with antlers of about 45 inches (114 centimeters) was shot and abandoned. Counts was the suspected shooter, witnesses said.
A second tip came in Sept. 14. A teacher reported a second dead moose shot the day before. The moose had an antler spread of just 25 inches, (63.5 centimeters), half the legal requirement. The teacher recognized one of the hunters, a former student, with an adult.
Troopers interviewed the boy, who is Counts’ nephew. He confirmed that his uncle had shot the two moose plus a third with a 26-inch (66-centimeter) antler spread on Sept. 7 when he was not with his uncle. Both hunters left their rifles in the woods Sept. 13 to avoid being caught, the boy said.
Troopers interviewed Counts, and he admitted shooting the three moose.
Rusty Counts was fined $97,650 and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution. He forfeited his rifle and an all-terrain vehicle and was sentenced to 270 days in jail.
This may not be the biggest fine for a wildlife violation of all time, but it is the largest I could find that was not spread over multiple years or did not involve Lacy Act violations for smuggling wildlife.
Alaska takes its wanton waste laws seriously.
“If you do the right thing in the field, this kind of thing doesn’t happen. But if you poach and leave moose, these are the appropriate sanctions, in the state’s view,” Peterson said.