A longtime senior state and federal wildlife official has been convicted of illegally killing a moose out of season, according to Alaska State Troopers and court records.
Michael Fleagle, 48, pleaded no contest last month to killing the cow moose near Fairbanks three weeks after an emergency order closed the hunt for antlerless animals, according to court records. The violation, which is Fleagle's first, appears to have been an honest mistake, said troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain.
"Basically he was conducting a legal hunt, but there was an emergency closure of the season and he didn't realize it," DeSpain said. "It sounds like a legitimate mistake."
The chairman of the Federal Subsistence Board since 2006, Fleagle previously served for 10 years on the state Board of Game, a position in which, as chairman, he helped set hunting seasons and bag limits. The federal board regulates subsistence activities on federal public lands and waters in Alaska.
The season in Zone 2 of Game Management Unit 20A -- about 15 miles southwest of Fairbanks -- would normally have run from Aug. 25 to Feb. 28. However, state Fish and Game officials closed the area Dec. 14, saying they expected the desired harvest level in the zone to be reached early.
Fleagle went out on his hunt Jan. 5, not realizing that the area was closed, he said in an interview Tuesday. After he bagged the moose, he returned to Anchorage and went online to register the kill, then saw the emergency order. He turned himself in at troopers headquarters in Anchorage the next day.
Wildlife regulations require that hunters be aware of all the regulations -- including emergency orders -- before they conduct a hunt, so Fleagle was charged with the violation, DeSpain said.
"It was my obligation to check, and I was relying on information that was outdated," Fleagle said. "There's no defense for that; it was an honest mistake."
Fleagle pleaded no contest to hunting the moose out of season. He was fined $500 but kept his hunting privileges, according to court records.