A Homer District Court judge found state wildlife biologist Jason Herreman not guilty of illegally hunting a moose on the Kenai Peninsula.
Thirty-four-year-old Herreman, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, was charged with using illegal means to take the moose and unlawful possession of game in September.
Herreman told authorities he wounded a moose during an Aug. 23 hunt near Anchor Point but lost it. He came back the next day to track down the injured animal with help from a spotter in an airplane. It is illegal for planes to help spot and kill game in Alaska.
The law on using planes to recover wounded animals is less clear. Lawyer Myron Angstman said Friday in a phone interview that he had planned to present two arguments.
Angstman initially argued in Herreman's bench trial — a trial without jurors in which the judge decides the verdict — that the radio his client used to communicate with the pilot "was of no aid whatsoever." The lawyer said the law stipulates that a crime is committed if those communications serve as an aid.
Judge Margaret Murphy "decided that it did not give aid," Angstman said. "Therefore, she was not required to go on to our second argument."
He planned to also argue that state law allows hunters to use any reasonable means to track down and salvage a wounded animal. He previously told Homer News that salvaging an animal using radios and aircraft should be considered against the alternative of not salvaging the animal at all, which could be considered wanton waste.
Angstman said it was an interpretation that needed a resolution in court. However, he did not have a chance to make the argument.
"We never got that far," he said. "Since there was no help from the radio, the judge found him not guilty."
Assistant attorney general Arne Soldwedel filed the charges against Herreman and tried the case. He said in an email that another state prosecutor covered Friday's hearing and all he was sure of was the verdict. He declined to comment on the outcome of the case before reviewing the judge's ruling.
Angstman said he is satisfied with the decision, and Herreman is "feeling good." It is still up in the air as to whether Herreman will get his job back; Fish and Game placed Herreman on unpaid leave.