Rock guitarist and gun-rights advocate Ted Nugent pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal wildlife violation in Alaska, stemming from a 2009 hunting trip in which he shot more than the legal limit of black bears. An avid hunter, Nugent was reportedly contrite about the incident, which he says he didn't know was illegal.
"I would never knowingly break any game laws," Nugent told Magistrate Judge Michael Thompson by telephone, according to the Anchorage Daily News. "I'm afraid I was blindsided by this, and I sincerely apologize to everyone for it."
Nugent was on Alaska's Sukkwan Island for the May 2009 bow-hunting trip, which was being filmed for his reality TV show, "Spirit of the Wild." He hit one black bear with an arrow, but it fled and he was unable to find it. He then shot a different black bear four days later, and moved its carcass out of Tongass National Forest by boat.
Under Alaska law, hunters can only kill one black bear per season in a given geographic area. Wounding a bear as Nugent did counts toward a hunter's annual limit, meaning it was illegal for him to continue hunting black bears on Sukkwan Island. Local regulations also require hunters to track down any animals they wound.
Not only did Nugent exceed his state bag limit, but by moving the dead bear out of federal territory, he also violated the 112-year-old Lacey Act, Reuters reports. According to a plea deal finalized at Tuesday's hearing, Nugent will pay a $10,000 fine, serve two years' probation, and refrain from hunting in Alaska or any U.S. national forest for one year. He will also pay $600 restitution to the state of Alaska, and will film a public-service announcement about responsible hunting that will air at least every other week for a year, according to the Associated Press.
The plea agreement states that Nugent knowingly moved the bear in violation of the Lacey Act. And while Nugent says he didn't know the first bear was hurt, federal prosecutor Jack Schmidt argued there was sufficient evidence. "There was a blood trail. There was blood," Schmidt said Tuesday, according to the ADN. "He is an avid hunter, and he should have known what the regs were."
Aside from the need to track down wounded prey, Nugent says he was also unaware of the state's one-bear limit. And he has company on that front — according to the AP, Thompson says he didn't know about the "sort of one-strike policy" either.
"It probably is not widely known," the judge said, "and if there is a side benefit to the agreement reached here today ... this probably will serve to alert a great many hunters to that very issue and may, in fact, prevent violations in the future and court activity for a whole slew of folks."
Nugent is no stranger to such legal entanglements. The musician also pleaded guilty in 2010 for illegally baiting a deer in California, where his hunting license remains suspended until this summer. And just last week, he drew scrutiny for telling supporters at a National Rifle Association meeting that he would be "dead or in jail" if President Obama is re-elected on Nov. 6. "We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November," he added. The Secret Service has since determined Nugent is not a serious threat to presidential security.
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