Iditarod musher King charged with illegal moose kill

DENALI: Animal was taken inside preserve, documents say.

April 10, 2008 

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King has been charged in federal court with illegally killing a moose inside the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve.

Charging documents filed in Fairbanks this week also accuse the musher of illegally driving an ATV off road in the park during the hunt last fall. Both violations are misdemeanors.

The case was investigated by national park rangers, who discovered a moose kill site inside the north border of the park, Denali spokeswoman Kris Fister said.

King said he goes hunting every fall but that he did not know he had been charged with a crime until a reporter contacted him Wednesday. He declined to comment further.

"I have not been charged to my knowledge," said King, who finished second in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this year. "If you have reason to believe I've been charged with something, I probably shouldn't comment on it."

King was hunting last September out of a camp along the Rock Creek Trail off Mile 262 on the Parks Highway, about a third of a mile north of the Denali park boundary, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by park ranger John Leonard.

Leonard and an Alaska state trooper, conducting a hunting patrol, found King at his camp with parts from a freshly killed bull moose, along with an ARGO vehicle, the document says. King had not validated his moose harvest ticket, the affidavit says.

King told investigators that the park needed to mark its boundary better, but that he has hunted in the area for the past nine years and was using a GPS, so he was familiar with the border, the affidavit says. He also told the investigators that he had seen a silver park boundary marker, the document says.

A subsequent search turned up a bone pile about 300 feet north of the park boundary and a mile from King's camp. However, the bones apparently had been moved from the kill site, which was inside the park boundary about three quarters of a mile from King's camp and clearly visible from it, the affidavit says.

"The location of King's camp is in close proximity to both the bone pile and kill site," Leonard says in the affidavit. "By King's own statements he did not know of or see anybody hunting to the east of his camp."

At the kill site, investigators found parts -- including a moose head with the skull plate and antlers cut out -- that matched up with those they saw at King's camp when they first contacted him, the affidavit says. They collected meat samples from the kill site for possible DNA testing.

Tire tracks between the kill site and the bone pile looked like tracks left by an ARGO, the affidavit says.

According to an online database search, King had a valid hunting license at the time of the hunt. The portion of Game Management Unit 20C outside the park was open to resident hunts for bull moose from Sept. 1 to Sept. 20, state wildlife biologist Don Young said.

But moose cannot be taken inside the park except by qualified federal subsistence users, and the affidavit says King was not a qualified subsistence hunter.

Each of the charges carry a penalty of up to six months in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine, assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Cooper said. King's arraignment is scheduled for May 8 in Fairbanks.


Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.

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