Trapper pleads not guilty in illegal snare case

Mark David Mitchell, charged with attempting to trap wolves during a closed season, was not present at his arraignment Thursday, but his attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

A trial for Mitchell is scheduled for Aug. 21, with a status hearing set for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Judge Kirsten L. Swanson said in court Thursday. Mitchell’s lawyer, Robin L. Schmid, was present over the phone for the hearing.

Mitchell, 39, was charged earlier this month with the class A misdemeanor after Alaska Department of Fish and Game personnel had to euthanize a black bear cub that got caught in one of Mitchell’s snares. The snares, which Alaska Wildlife Troopers said were left out near Ready Bouillon Creek on Douglas Island to catch wolves, should have been removed after wolf-hunting season ended April 30.

Hikers found the bear in the snare on May 29, Alaska State Troopers say, and there were two other snares of his in the area as well.

[Wolf snare mortally wounds bear cub]

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Jake Abbott, the case officer, was in court Thursday to explain to Swanson that this is not Mitchell’s first violation. Mitchell’s hunting privileges were already revoked at the time of this most recent offense, Abbott has said, due to a violation in 2016 when Mitchell and a couple others took an over-limit of moose during a trip to the Chilkat Peninsula.

At the moment, the Juneau District Attorney’s Office is listed as the prosecutor on electronic court records. Abbott said Troopers are weighing their options between having the DA’s Office prosecute the case and having the Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecution Fish and Wildlife prosecutors take the case.

“They generally only take bigger cases,” Abbott said of OSP’s prosecutors, “but we also want to ensure that we get the appropriate outcome in this case.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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