A Kasilof man stands charged with illegally trapping along the western edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, killing three bald eagles and other wildlife, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
Douglas Wrate Jr., 44, was charged this month with multiple misdemeanor game law violations. He faces three charges for breaking a federal law that protects eagles and five charges for violating the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which protects wildlife in federal refuges.
According to the indictment, three eagles were caught in Wrate's traps in early March. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said one eagle was found dead. An officer with the agency believed two other eagles found badly injured died too. Wrate also caught a moose and two coyotes.
Trapping is legal in the refuge for people who have passed a state exam and who have a refuge permit. But federal law requires traps be checked every seven days, that visible bait be at least 30 feet from traps and snares, that traps be clearly tagged, and that the edible meat of moose be salvaged. The indictment said Wrate didn't do any of those things.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, prosecutors said. Wrate is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on Nov. 18.
Jill Birchell, a special agent with Fish and Wildlife, said an officer stumbled upon the dead birds and the moose near the Kasilof River and was forced to shoot a coyote caught for several days.
Hunters are required to check traps so captured animals that haven't died can be killed quickly, Birchell said. The practice also aims to release bald eagles and other raptors that are accidentally captured.
"It's a humane issue," Birchell said. "Good trappers aren't going to leave animals in leghold traps to suffer."
Wrate didn't appear to intentionally kill the eagles, she said. Wrate could not be reached by telephone.