- Associated Press - Friday, August 4, 2017

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - After pleading guilty in a poaching case, three men have been ordered to pay restitution for illegally killing three musk oxen in northwest Alaska.

At their Wednesday sentencing, 33-year-old Thomas Tazruk, 30-year-old Billy Bodfish and 58-year-old Willie Bodfish were ordered to pay $3,000 restitution for each of the three kills, for a total bill of $9,000 to be split among them.

The men, all residents of the small Inupiat Eskimo village of Wainwright, also were ordered to pay $500 fines each and forfeit their firearms in connection with the case that began last year.

The three pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges that they took the animals during a closed season and failed to salvage the meat. Authorities say only a hind quarter from one of the animals was salvaged, and the rest was left as bait for wolverines and wolves. Authorities retrieved a .22 rimfire round from one of the musk oxen carcasses. Willie Bodfish later told troopers he had used a .22 rimfire pistol to kill one of the animals, according the charging document.

Billy Bodfish also admitted taking five gallons of aviation fuel from a remote cache in the area used by the National Park Service, according to the court papers.

The three animals had been shot numerous times when their carcasses were found near the headwaters of the Colville River in the Brooks Range region in late March 2016. A skinned wolverine was found near the carcasses two weeks later, and a wildlife trooper who flew to the site saw two snowmobiles, one of which was carrying Tazruk, according to the charging document.

Tazruk told wildlife troopers that he and Billy Bodfish each shot one of the animals and removed a leg from the musk ox that he shot, court documents say. Troopers also interviewed the other two men, who admitted they had each shot one of the animals without salvaging the meat, according to the documents.

“The state takes these types of things really seriously,” Assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson said Friday. “In our view, it was poaching.”

Peterson had sought tougher penalties, including actual jail time for the men.

Billy Bodfish’s attorney, Myron Angstman, said he and his client are satisfied with the outcome. He said Billy Bodfish is employed and fully expects to pay his share and hopes the others do, too.

“It was a situation that obviously was not legal,” Angstman said. “And it was a mistake for them to do it.”

Attorneys representing the other two men from the Alaska Public Defender Agency and state Office of Public Advocacy did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.


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