Two U.S. Coast Guard officers were cited Friday for failing to salvage game meat after they illegally dumped a deer and four whole ducks on Montana Creek Road earlier this month.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers said an anonymous tipster led them to cite 26-year-old James Schmidt and 27-year-old Chris Hyde for the criminal misdemeanor offense, which is now also being investigated by the Coast Guard, an agency spokesman confirmed.
“We pretty much received anonymous tips regarding possible suspects, followed up on those leads and figured out who it was,” Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Aaron Frenzel said by phone Wednesday.
Troopers said the large buck found on the roadside Oct. 1 was barely salvaged yet its antlers were removed. Four whole ducks were found nearby. Troopers quickly publicized the game wasting case, which are rare in Juneau, to solicit tips from the public.
“The hopes of harvest is to put it in your freezer and consume it,” Frenzel said. “When they end up dumping it like that, it’s just waste. Unethical, unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Alaska Department of Fish and Game hunting regulations and state statutes requires that all edible game meat be salvaged and taken to a place to be processed for human consumption. Failure to salvage game meat is a class ‘A’ misdemeanor which can be punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Schmidt and Hyde are scheduled to be arraigned in Juneau District Court on Oct. 30.
Attempts to reach them for comment via Facebook were unsuccessful Wednesday. It’s unknown if they have attorneys.
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman for District 17, which covers all of Alaska, confirmed that Petty Officers 2nd Class Schmidt and Hyde are engineers stationed aboard the Auke Bay-based Coast Guard Cutter Liberty. Both reported for duty in Juneau last summer.
The Coast Guard is investigating the incident to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken against the two men, Coast Guard District 17 spokesman Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow said. Any action will be taken after the criminal court case is complete, he said.
“That can depend on the investigation,” he said, describing the range of possible repercussions by the military. “It could be anything just from administrative discipline to potentially something more severe under the (Uniform Code of Military Justice), depending on what the results of the investigation are.”
This marks the second time in about a month’s span that a Coast Guard officer has been accused of violating Alaska’s wildlife laws. Last month, 42-year-old James P. Houck, District 17’s Waterways Management Chief in Juneau and the former commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore, was cited for illegally shooting a black bear rummaging through trash in his yard in Douglas.
Houck is scheduled to stand trial in December for the misdemeanor offense. The Coast Guard is investigating Houck’s conduct as well, Wadlow previously told the Empire.
The Coast Guard will be taking both short- and long-term steps to ensure personnel are familiar with local and state hunting and fishing laws, Wadlow said. All units will receive an email this week reminding them of the Coast Guard requirement to know local and state laws. The Coast Guard will be providing training in the future to ensure all new members are familiar with the hunting and fishing laws, he said.
“We do require our personnel to adhere to all local, state and federal regulations wherever they’re stationed around the world,” Wadlow said.
Schmidt’s Facebook profile states he is originally from Columbia, North Carolina; Hyde, from Midland, Texas; and Houck, Kansas City, Kansas.
“For military personnel, we do move around quite frequently and depending on where we’re at in the country, ... rules and regulations do vary by region or by state,” Wadlow said. “And our primary concern about this is to, number one, contact all the commands and reemphasize the importance of Coast Guard members knowing what the local laws and regulations are for activities that they choose to participate in, including hunting and fishing, and then ensuring that the members are doing their due diligence in educating themselves and addressing any questions they have with the appropriate regulatory agencies.”
Troopers are still investigating another recent game wasting case wherein someone dumped a large amount of moose meat on the side of Thane Road south of downtown. The meat was found Oct. 2. Anyone with information about that case is asked to report a tip to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers’ office in Juneau at 465-4000 or the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard hotline at 800-478-3377. Tipsters are guaranteed anonymity and can be rewarded.
Juneau does not see a lot of wasting game meat cases, but it does see a lot of littering cases wherein hunters illegally dump animal carcasses, according to Trooper Frenzel. The trooper just received a report Wednesday of someone who found deer hooves and bones discarded illegally.
“We’ve got people dumping buckets and buckets of clams, fish, birds, game animals like deer, moose is pretty common,” he said. “A lot of places in Alaska you can do that but Juneau’s such an enclosed road system, people usually see it here because people are running or jogging just about everywhere.”
The city installed hidden cameras at various popular dumping sites in Juneau two years ago to crack down on the illegal activity. That has helped overall, although it did not help in this case, the trooper said.
“It didn’t catch anybody dumping anything,” he said of reviewing camera footage.
He added: “A lot of times it’s hard to figure out who it is without the public’s help because you can’t have cameras set up at every little spot.”