Last summer you may remember seeing a Juneau Empire article on the taking of a bear cub in an illegal wolf snare on Douglas Island. The bear cub suffered greatly and had to be euthanized.
The case of Mark David Mitchell will be coming up for trial this spring (April 23, according to electronic court records). If you care about sound game management, wildlife conservation, safe trails and crime in the state of Alaska, you should care and act on this case as public opinion is needed to bring justice for this crime. Otherwise leniency may allow this repeat offender to not only “get away with” this crime, but continue to do so.
Mark David Mitchell is a repeat offender having illegally taken moose and then setting wolf snares out of season all over Douglas Island that have now wastefully killed two bears. This means he has stolen wildlife that belongs to all Alaskans and wasted it in the worst way possible, and endangered more wildlife, dogs and people by placing illegal snares all over Douglas Island (that are still out there).
That is just what we actually know he has done. He has undoubtedly violated wildlife laws many times more and not been caught. This is why he has the confidence to continue violating the law, and he most certainly will continue to do so if there are no consequences for any of his actions.
Are you someone with a hunting, fishing or trapping license that follows the rules? Cheaters like Mark David Mitchell undermine the integrity of wildlife management systems that determine what can be taken sustainably by rendering the math invalid that decides how much and when animals can be safely taken. The processes to make these decisions use up no small amount of state resources. Tolerating cheaters only encourages more to cheat and threatens the ability of to enjoy a bountiful harvest. The license you pay for is meaningless if the rules are not followed with violators prosecuted and subject to losing that license when they cheat.
Are you someone who enjoys wildlife viewing, photography or benefits from the many tourists who come to the state to enjoy our wildlife? Your interests matter, too. Wildlife belongs to every Alaskan whether they buy a license or not. If wildlife is wasted, opportunities for your quality of life and economic opportunity providing that quality experience to others is threatened.
Are you a hiker or dog walker? If you go to Douglas Island, be on the lookout for more of these illegal snares. They are reportedly possible all over the island and are continuing to pose a hazard not only to more wildlife, but to your pets and children.
Are you someone who thinks wildlife should be treated fairly and not wasted? The killing of the bear cub was inhumane, and it suffered for a long time. At the very least, animals should not be suffering in Alaska for illegal activities. If you have a moral compass and compassion for a suffering bear cub that died for nothing, your voice needs to be heard.
Are you someone who cares about the rise in crime in Alaska? Crime is a topical issue in our community. As Alaska becomes softer and softer on crime, letting this individual get away with these repeated and serious offenses only reinforces the message that committing a crime is no big deal in Alaska and emboldens criminals of all types.
As a law-abiding citizen who cares about wildlife for whatever reason, we encourage you to email the District Attorney’s office at email@example.com or call 465-3620 and ask the state and courts to do their job by prosecuting this individual to the full extent of the law for his crimes, including loss of any state licenses for fish and wildlife permanently.
• Linda Shaw is on the board of the Southeast chapter of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.