Charges: Lodge hunters illegally killed sheep, poisoned wolves
A Haines man and two Outside residents face federal charges of conducting illegal Dall sheep hunts for more than a year in Interior Alaska, as well as using a sweetener in an effort to kill wolves and coyotes for “predator control.”
Dale Lackner, 72, as well as 44-year-old Jeffrey Harris of Poulsbo, Wash. and 47-year-old Casey Richardson of Huson, Mont., were charged with violating and conspiring to violate the federal Lacey Act, conspiring to use a substance to incapacitate game and unlawful baiting of game, as well as filing false records and making false statements, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder’s office.
A 15-count indictment in the case mentions half a dozen illegal hunts, for sheep as well as a grizzly bear, conducted in 2014 and 2015 at the Ptarmigan Lake Lodge within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Although the lodge was a licensed concessionaire within the park, only Lackner had an assistant guide’s license.
“The indictment alleges that, during the 2014 and 2015 hunting seasons, out-of-state hunters illegally hunted and killed Dall sheep at PLL without being accompanied by a registered guide,” federal prosecutors wrote. Harris and Richardson, (neither) Alaska residents nor registered guides, are charged with illegally hunting themselves and conducting many of the illegal hunts.”
Prosecutors listed four Dall sheep hunts, between August 2014 and September 2015, for which hunters paid the defendants a total of nearly $40,000. Trophies from the animals were sent from the lodge to the hunters’ homes in Arkansas, Georgia, Montana and South Dakota.
In addition, Harris allegedly killed a grizzly bear in 2014 before the Aug. 10 opening of that year’s state bear season, then falsely claimed he had taken the animal on opening day. Richardson also stands accused of violating state law by killing a Dall sheep in September 2014, as an Outside resident unaccompanied by an Alaskan guide.
The indictment also claims that to limit the wolf population around the lodge and improve sheep and moose yields, the defendants “used xylitol, a substance deadly to canines, by distributing xylitol on bait piles and in rabbit carcasses for predators, including wolves, to consume.”
Prosecutors claimed that the defendants had bought some 15 pounds of xylitol in Fairbanks during September and November 2015, and discussed plans to poison predators in Facebook and text messages.
“On November 24, 2015, Harris, communicating on his Facebook account, wrote to the winter caretaker at [the lodge], ‘Don’t forget the [xylitol],’” prosecutors wrote. “‘Make meatballs and put it in the very middle [of] the [frozen] lake. They will be dead before they can leave the lake.’”
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the National Park Service, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.