McGrath - A man contracted to kill wolves in a state predator control program near McGrath pleaded no contest Thursday to criminal charges of shooting nine animals from a plane outside the prescribed area, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Tony Zellers, 41, of Eagle River entered the plea to two counts of shooting wolves from a plane, one count of unlawful possession of game and one count of lying about where he shot the wolves. Zellers was originally charged with five counts of shooting wolves and two counts of unlawful possession. The reduced charges were a result of an agreement with the district attorney's office.
According to Alaska State Troopers, Zellers and David Haeg, 38, of Soldotna, last March applied for and were granted a state permit allowing them to kill wolves in an area near McGrath. The agreement, under the predator-control program approved by the Alaska Board of Game in 2003, was designed to eliminate wolves in a 3,300-square-mile area surrounding McGrath to help the moose population grow.
But the state says Zellers and Haeg killed no wolves in the legal hunt zone but wandered outside, as far as 80 miles in one case. Then, the state says, they falsified paperwork about where the wolves were killed.
In all of the killings, Zellers shot the wolves while Haeg flew the airplane.
Troopers have seized the plane owned by Haeg and used in the offenses. It could be forfeited to the state.
Zellers agreed to testify against Haeg, who faces multiple charges. Haeg is scheduled to appear in court in February.
Under the terms of the agreement, Zellers will get 12 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and have to pay $4,500 for the value of the wolves with Haeg. His hunting, trapping and guiding privileges will be suspended until July. He will also be on probation for five years.