Mark David Mitchell, 39, was charged Thursday with attempting to trap wolves during a closed season, a class A misdemeanor. The charge dates to July 12, when Juneau-based Alaska Wildlife Troopers received a report from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game that a bear had been found dead and caught in a snare near Mount Ben Stewart on Douglas Island, according to the dispatch.
Wildlife Trooper Jake Abbott, the case officer, said the person who reported it was a hiker on the north side of the mountain. The bear had been dead for a while, Abbott said. Troopers visited the scene and identified the snares as Mitchell’s. They determined that Mitchell had set the snares with the intent of catching wolves.
This charge is the second one this summer for Mitchell, as he was charged in June with another count of attempting to trap wolves during a closed season when a snare of his trapped a black bear near Ready Bullion Creek on Douglas Island. The bear had to be killed because its injuries from the snare were so severe. According to electronic court records, Mitchell’s pretrial hearing for the first charge is set for Oct. 8 and his trial is set for Oct. 16.
Mitchell’s arraignment for his new charge is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Juneau District Court. Mitchell was not present at his arraignment for the offense in June, but his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Troopers believe there are still more snares on Douglas Island or in the Thane area. Abbott said tracking down all of Mitchell’s traps is a difficult task.
“The sheer geographic area that he had trapping gear spread about makes it nearly impossible for us to go ahead and finds this stuff,” Abbott said.
Abbott said to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary if you’re out hiking or hunting in those areas. Flagging tape on trees or brush that looks out of place are signs that there could be a trap nearby. If anybody finds one, they are asked to contact Troopers at 225-5118.
After the first charge this summer, Abbott said Mitchell’s hunting privileges were already revoked at the time of the June incident for a previous violation.
Abbott said the previous violation is from 2016, when Mitchell and a couple others were hunting on the Chilkat Peninsula, across from Point Retreat, and they harvested more moose than was allowed. According to electronic court records, those were minor offenses that were filed in October 2016, and Abbott said the penalty was revoking Mitchell’s hunting license for two years.
Abbott said in his experience it’s not uncommon to find traps out out-of-season, and trappers usually either leave their traps out because they got lazy or because they don’t remember where they put all their snares.
Abbott said some people have been upset with his office because they don’t think they’re being harsh enough on Mitchell. Abbott said it’s still early in the court proceedings and he and his co-workers are hoping for an appropriate resolution.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” Abbott said. “It’s an egregious waste of the resource and an egregious offense in general.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.