Alaska hunting guide faces federal charges over moose shootings

The Anchorage Daily NewsApril 20, 2012 

An Anchorage-based hunting guide accused of illegally shooting moose, leaving them to rot and then using their carcasses as bait for his clients' brown bear hunts is facing new charges in federal court.

Fred Sims, 48, was charged in state Superior Court in 2010 with 31 misdemeanor counts, including killing moose out of season, shooting them the same day he flew in an airplane, leaving the meat to waste, and using the meat as bait, according to court records. The state case is still pending.

Sims now faces two felony counts in federal court for profiting twice -- once in 2007 and again in 2009 -- when he allegedly guided clients who shot brown bears that were attracted to the rotting moose meat, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Sims was looking at a minimum seven days in jail and a $250,000 fine in the state case. He now faces the possibility, if convicted, of a maximum 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine. And the federal authorities want to seize Sims' airplane, a Piper Super Cub.

"These are felony charges with serious penalties, which reflect the serious activities Mr. Sims is charged with," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki, when asked why Sims was now charged in federal court.

According to the indictment handed up by a federal grand jury this week, Sims shot and killed four moose in May 2007, on the same day he had been flying in a plane, which is illegal. After leaving the moose meat to waste, Sims waited until a bear started feeding on one of the carcasses and brought a client to shoot the bear, the indictment says.

In May 2009, Sims killed two moose, one of which was a pregnant cow, the indictment says. Again, he allegedly brought a client to the dead moose while a bear was feeding, and the client shot the bear.

Few details about the investigation are included in the federal indictment but state authorities in 2010 outlined the tactics they used to go after Sims.

A state prosecutor wrote in a charging document that Alaska Wildlife Troopers started looking at Sims in 2003. They had received complaints that Sims flew in a plane and shot moose the same day and possibly shot a bear at one of the moose-kill sites, the charges said. Troopers found a large, skinned bear at one of the sites and buckshot from the moose kill was in the bear's scat, evidence the bear had eaten the moose Sims had shot, the prosecutor wrote.

Other kill sites started to pop up, the charges say. At one point, the troopers mounted a tracking device on Sims' airplane and found the plane had visited locations where fresh moose kills were later discovered. An officer later watched as one of Sims' clients took aim and shot at what was later confirmed to be a bear, the charges say.

After the state charges were filed, Sims' lawyer said he planned to fight them. Court records show Sims apparently intended to change his not guilty plea in March but didn't follow through.

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