A hunter accused of illegally shooting a Prince William Sound harbor seal in 2017 and then lying about it was sentenced Friday to two years of probation and community service related to marine conservation.
Paul Gil, 41, last month entered a guilty plea to one count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s prohibition on hunting, harassing or killing seals, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
Gil, on a deer hunting trip with two companions, shot the seal with his AR-15 rifle and then took the dead animal to his Anchorage home where he skinned it, federal prosecutors say. He was also accused of lying last year to federal law enforcement agents about killing the seal.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kyle F. Reardon sentenced Gil to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
He also paid a $1,500 fine after implying he still owned the AR-15 during plea deal negotiations when he no longer did, according to a sentencing memorandum filed earlier this month.
Gil will not seek “any hunting licenses, permits, tags or harvest tickets from the State of Alaska” during the term of his probation, according to the plea agreement reached last month. He also gave up any interest in the AR-15.
The attorney representing Gil during the case could not immediately be reached Monday.
Gil lived in Anchorage at the time of the incident but his current legal address is in Wasilla, according to Lisa Houghton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage.
Gil shot the seal during a deer hunting trip in the Naked Island area in October 2017, according to the sentencing memo. He then loaded up the animal and took it to his Anchorage home, where he was photographed cleaning the seal’s carcass in the backyard.
Someone identified only by their initials told investigators they “told Gil he could not shoot a seal because he is not Alaska Native,” the memo states. The person said Gil then told them he would shoot them if they told anyone. Instead, they would tell people the person, who is Alaska Native, had shot the seal.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act exempts Alaska Native people from prohibitions on killing seals if they’re used for “subsistence purposes or for creating and selling authentic native handicrafts and clothing,” the document states.
When National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration law enforcement agents approached Gil about the hunt last June, he lied and said the only animal he harvested was a deer, according to the memo. His hunting companions, however, said he shot and killed a seal.
“Wildlife crimes like this one are exceedingly difficult to detect,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo. “And that is especially true in Alaska with our vast wilderness and 66,000 miles of coastline.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of U.S. Attorney Office spokeswoman Lisa Houghton.