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AK - Trio fined for hunting violations

Patten trio fined for hunting violations in Alaska
December 08, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

PATTEN - Three local people were hit with hefty fines and will spend the next 10 years on probation with the state of Alaska after pleading no contest to numerous hunting and outfitting violations in that state.

Lester Conklin, his wife, Marie Conklin, and their son, Jason Conklin, all of Patten, pleaded no contest Dec. 3 to multiple charges of illegal outfitting and illegal bear baiting during a court hearing in Alaska. Lester Conklin also pleaded no contest to taking a brown bear without a guide and un-sworn falsification.

All three together will pay a total of $70,000 in fines. The three also received jail sentences that ranged from 70 to 300 days, but all of that time was suspended.

All three were placed on probation for 10 years. Lester Conklin lost hunting privileges in Alaska for five years, as well as big game guiding privileges for 10 years. He also lost bear baiting privileges in that state for 10 years.

Marie Conklin lost hunting privileges in Alaska for 10 years and big game guiding privileges for 10 years. She also lost bear baiting privileges for 10 years.

Jason Conklin lost hunting privileges for 10 years and fishing privileges for five years. He also lost big game guiding privileges for 10 years in Alaska.

Lester Conklin also was ordered to forfeit a boat, boat motor and recreational vehicle with the option to buy back the items for a total of $6,000. He was ordered to forfeit a black bear and a brown bear and also was ordered to pay $1,900 restitution to the state of Alaska for the two animals.

All of the charges against the Conklins were misdemeanors, according to Alaska State Trooper Katrina Malm.

Capt. Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service said Friday that the violations in Alaska do not affect the Conklinsí hunting and fishing rights in Maine.

According to a statement from the Alaska Department of Public Safety, the investigation into the case began in 2005

during a check of bear bait stations by Alaska Wildlife Troopers in the field at Conklinís Lodge and Camps at Donkey Creek Lake in Skwentna, Alaska. The Wildlife Investigations Unit continued the investigation.

According to police, the family established the lodge in Alaska a few years ago, and also run a similar business in Patten.

The Conklins were alleged to have outfitted several clients with "black-bear over bait" hunts at the lodge in Alaska in 2005 and 2006. They also were reportedly providing tree stands and a boat for clients, but did not have the commercial big game guide-outfitter license needed to conduct outfitting services.

While the Conklins registered for bear bait sites in Alaska, their bait stations were not located at least 1 mile from a dwelling or residence as required by that stateís law, according to investigators. Officials said the Conklinsí bear bait stations were within a quarter of a mile to a half a mile from the lodge and scent lures had been established on the grounds of the lodge. Police said the Conklins actively baited bears to their lodge in 2005 and 2006 and used a recreational vehicle to facilitate the movement of bait to their sites.

Investigators also said that, during the time the Conklins were actively baiting at the lodge and at bait sites, Lester Conklin killed a brown bear without a guide.

Malm said Thursday she joined Alaska Wildlife Troopers and officials from the Maine Warden Service in August 2006 to serve a search warrant at the Conklinsí facility in Patten. A search warrant also was served at the lodge in Alaska, where the Conklins were at the time.

Malm said that evidence seized from the Patten lodge, including forensic computer evidence, showed the Conklins had conducted research on Alaskaís hunting regulations prior to taking on customers at their Alaska lodge, leading police to believe the Conklins knew their activities in Alaska were illegal.

In their press release, the Alaska Wildlife Troopers said Jason Conklin committed several sport fish guiding violations but was not charged with those violations as part of a plea agreement. They also said Lester and Marie Conklin committed several sport fishing violations just prior to purchasing the Alaska lodge but they were not charged with those violations as part of a plea agreement.

At this point, Lester and Marie Conklin could potentially conduct sport fishing operations at their Alaska lodge, but Malm said Thursday the area is not a prime spot for salmon fishing, which is popular in Alaska.

Contacted Thursday in Patten, Lester Conklin said he had no comment about the charges and referred questions to Michael McDonough, his attorney in Alaska. A message left for McDonough was not returned by press time.

Malm credited the Maine Warden Service with assisting in the Maine part of the investigation.

Jen Lynds may be reached at 532-9257 or via e-mail at jlbdn@ainop.com.

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