Trial portion of Iditarod musher King's federal case ends

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2008

FAIRBANKS - The trial portion of four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race winner Jeff King's federal case that he illegally killed a moose in Denali National Park concluded.

Closing arguments will be presented in writing, with the prosecution's rebuttal due Sept. 25. The judge is expected to issue a ruling sometime after that.

King, 52, took the stand in his own defense Tuesday. He is accused of killing a bull moose about 600 feet inside the park's northern boundary while on a hunting trip with one of his daughters last September. Only federally qualified subsistence users, which King is not, are allowed to hunt within park boundaries.

If convicted, King faces up to a year in prison and a fine of $10,000.

On Monday, the park ranger and Alaska Wildlife Trooper who contacted King soon after taking the moose testified that King misled him on where he killed the moose. But King said the conversation never took place.

"There is no way I wouldn't remember that," King said. "I wouldn't tell anyone unless they asked."

King, who has lived in Denali Park for more than 30 years and hunted in an area near the park's boundary for the last nine years, said the moose he shot was actually the third one he saw. He spotted a bull about 20 minutes after setting up camp, but did not pursue it because it was inside the park's boundary. The second moose he and his daughter, Cali, saw was outside of the park, but it was a cow.

The third moose seemed to be the perfect, he said.

"This was too good to be true to find the moose the first night," he said. "I told (Cali) I'd be a fool not to go after that moose."

King testified that he may have missed the moose the first time he shot, as it continued to run toward the park. He said he lost track of it for a minute, but it fell the second time he shot it.

King maintains that the park service has not accurately marked Denali's border.

King, who said he did not use a map, compass or GPS unit during his hunt, also said that when he asked the park ranger the morning after he took the moose where the boundary is located, the ranger pointed to an area that would have been well beyond where he shot the animal.

His daughter, who accompanied him on the hunt, backed up that claim when she took the stand earlier in the day.

"He's a ranger, for Pete's sake," she said. "He knows exactly where the park boundary is."

King said he had seen that Web page before the hunt but didn't understand it and felt it wasn't necessary to download coordinates for an area he was familiar with. The musher said that while he is familiar with GPS units in dog mushing, he only uses them to determine the speed of his team and doesn't know how to use many of the functions on a unit.

"I can't even set the alarm on my cell phone, much less take this and make any use of it," said King, holding up a printout of the coordinates.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Cooper has contended there is little reason for a hunter to not know the park's exact boundary because exact coordinates for the boundary are available on the park's Web site.

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