October 6, 2011 |

Moose shot in townsite limits

A hunter who shot a bull moose at a local golf course Sept. 27 has been cited with discharging a firearm in the townsite.

The incident near 2 Mile Haines Highway has raised questions about the fate of animals harvested in the townsite and whether the penalty for shooting is enough to deter hunters when hundreds of pounds of prime meat are just a trigger’s pull away.

Discharging a firearm in the townsite is illegal under Haines Borough law, with a maximum fine of $300. Hunting is not specifically prohibited in the townsite. (Duck hunting near the golf course is permitted by Haines Borough Code.)

The hunter involved in the incident did not return phone messages this week.

According to a report by state troopers, who investigated what they described as an "attempted moose harvest" two days after it occurred, the animal was knocked down after being hit, but subsequently got up and ran into the woods.

The case has yet to be heard by the local magistrate.

Alaska wildlife enforcement officers said they would not seek forfeiture of an animal if its taking did not involve violation of a state law. "At this time there’s nothing we would do in that circumstance other than helping (borough police) with the case," said Lt. Steve Hall of the Alaska State Troopers in Juneau.

Trooper Hall said the borough "probably" could seize the animal, though. "I don’t know if they would."

Borough police chief Gary Lowe said he’d recommend the state seize a moose taken in the townsite, since the harvest itself would be an illegal act.

Lowe also said he would take the value of the moose into account when making a recommendation to the court on sentencing, in the event a hunter was able to keep an animal shot in the townsite.

"If someone shoots a moose and is allowed to keep it and it’s only a $50 fine, that’s just the cost of doing business. We’d certainly want to discourage that," Lowe said.

Longtime resident and hunter Craig Loomis, who lives near the shooting site, said even a maximum fine of $300 wouldn’t serve as an effective deterrent. "Three hundred bucks for 400 pounds of moose meat right in town? I’ve spent more than $300 for boat fuel and equipment and just driving my truck back and forth," Loomis said. "People spend oodles of money."

Loomis said the shooting also raised questions of reckless endangerment. "Do you want people shooting inside town limits? There’s lots of legal animals (around town)."