An Alaska man who poached three moose and left most of the meat to rot has been sentenced to nine months in jail and fined more than $100,000, the AP reports. Rusty Counts, 39, of Anchor Point, shot the moose near his community over two weeks in September. He pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to 21 misdemeanor wildlife counts and violations, including wanton waste, exceeding bag limits, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor (his nephew, who was with him). Hunting regulations near the Kenai Peninsula community require moose to have antlers measuring 50-inches wide to be harvested. None of the three moose had the required spread, says prosecutor Aaron Peterson. "The working theory is that he realized they were sublegal and decided not to stick around to salvage the meat," Peterson said Monday.
Alaska officials take seriously the harvesting of moose and salvaging of meat, Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said. A bull moose can weigh up to 1,600 pounds and feed a family for months. A successful hunt is also a source of pride, Marsh said. "It's a really important part of our culture and tradition," he said. Peterson backed the hefty penalties for Counts as a deterrent to others. If Counts had salvaged meat from the first moose, he likely would have been penalized for a single hunting violation. "That meat goes to shelters, food banks. It goes to people who need it," Peterson said. "Instead, we have three bull moose that fully go to waste." Counts was fined $97,650 and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution. He forfeited his rifle and an all-terrain vehicle and was sentenced to 270 days in jail. (Dozens of elephants were killed after anti-poaching units were disarmed in Botswana.)