North

3 men sentenced for illegal hunting ring in Alaska national park

The three former employees of Ptarmigan Lake Lodge were sentenced earlier this month in Anchorage after they pleaded guilty to misdemeanour and felony charges that included falsifying hunt records.

Men pleaded guilty to falsifying hunt records and guiding out-of-state hunters while not licensed

Three former employees of Ptarmigan Lake Lodge, located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, pleaded guilty to misdemeanour and felony charges that included guiding out-of-state hunters on Dall sheep hunts while not licensed. (Facebook/Carcross/Tagish First Nation)

Three men have been sentenced in connection with an illegal hunting operation in a national park in eastern Alaska.

The three former employees of Ptarmigan Lake Lodge, which is on privately owned land within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, were sentenced earlier this month in Anchorage after they pleaded guilty to misdemeanour and felony charges that included falsifying hunt records and guiding out-of-state hunters on Dall sheep hunts while not licensed.

Jeffrey Harris, Dale Lackner and Casey Richardson were indicted in August, 2017.

Lackner, of Alaska, was sentenced to six months of house arrest. Richardson, of Montana, and Harris, of Washington state, were sentenced to three months in a halfway house, followed by three months of house arrest.

They were also sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution to the United States Department of the Interior Restoration Fund.

The lodge where the men were employed is owned by Urban Rahoi, a famed hunting guide and aviator. Rahoi, who had his 100th birthday this month, was cited for an illegal baiting station and agreed to pay $4,900 to the National Park Foundation.

Rahoi also surrendered his hunting guide license, which was the first issued by the state.

Authorities alleged Rahoi purchased an artificial sweetener that Richardson put into rabbit carcasses to poison wolves to control predator populations. Rahoi and Harris also operated bear bait stations in an area where the stations aren't allowed, according to the indictment.

Rahoi told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he has been hunting in the area before it became a national park.

"According to the law, the federal government was never to be in command of game laws," Rahoi said. "It was Alaska that was supposed to control the game. They kind of took over on their own like they always do in the federal government."

Rahoi said predator control has boosted the moose and caribou population near his lodge.