Poachers Get Worldwide Hunting Ban for Killing Moose Inside National Park

Photographic evidence provided by U.S. Attorneys Office.
Photographic evidence provided by U.S. Attorneys Office.

Earlier this month, two poachers pled guilty to killing a bull moose in an Alaskan National Park back in September of 2021. During their hearing at a federal courthouse in Anchorage on Feb. 23, Christopher Brumwell and Andrew McDonald struck a plea bargain that includes 4 years of probation and $10,000 a piece in various fines and restitution. The plea agreement requires that they adhere to a 4-year-long, worldwide hunting ban.

According to court documents and a U.S. Attorneys press release, the incident occurred on September 20, 2021. McDonald shot and killed the moose inside the Dry Creek region of Denali National Park. Three groups of hunters witnessed the illegal kill and separately reported the incident to law enforcement.

They spent hours quartering the moose and "meticulously skinned the skull," a U.S. Attorney spokesperson tells Field & Stream, in preparation "for a European-style mount." Then they carried the skull and antlers, along with two 50-pound game bags, outside of park boundaries to a concealed location near their ATVs.

The following morning, around 6:30 a.m., Brumwell returned to the area in order the pack out more of the moose meat, but he noticed an onlooker observing him from a ridge. Investigators obtained Brumwell's and McDonald's text messages from the morning of September 21, which they were sending via Garmin InReach devices.

"We're gonna move the goods," Brumwell wrote, in a message to McDonald, who was back at the pair's campsite tending to a flat ATV tire at the time. "You're going to move them where we put the two bags yesterday?" McDonald then asked.

Screenshots of a text message obtained by investigators.
Screenshots of a text message between Brumwell and McDonald that was obtained by investigators and shared with F&S.

Brumwell got to within 100 yards of the stashed game bags before he aborted his mission, the 18-page plea document states. "Change of plans," reads another one of his messages to McDonald. "People watching from the ridge. Gonna come back to camp."

As he was preparing to leave the park for the second time, Brumwell was approached by a hunter who'd witnessed the pair's poaching activities the previous evening. That person offered to let Brumwell use a satellite phone to report the dead moose to National Park Service (NPS) officials. Brumwell declined, claiming that neither he, nor anyone else in his hunting party, had been involved in killing the moose.

Spanning more than 6 million acres, Denali is one of the largest National Parks in the United States.
Spanning more than 6 million acres, Denali is one of the largest National Parks in the United States.

When NPS rangers made contact with Brumwell later that day, he denied his involvement once again, but he did tell them that he hadn't seen any park boundary signs in the area. It was McDonald who eventually admitted to NPS that he and Brumwell had indeed killed the protected moose on the evening of September 20 and stashed the game bags roughly 800 yards from their side-by-sides before returning to camp for the night.

“Mr. McDonald and Mr. Brumwell’s actions are an affront to law abiding hunters and Alaskan subsistence living,” U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker for the District of Alaska wrote in statement. “Hunting must be done legally and in accordance with regulations. My office will continue to work with our wildlife law enforcement partners to ensure that hunting rules and regulations are followed by resident and non-resident hunters.”

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NPS rangers returned to the site of the illegal moose kill and packed out the moose meat that Brumwell and McDonald left behind. Though the kill site was scavenged by a bear, the crew was able to recover 76 pounds of moose meat which was later donated to the Alaska Department of Safety’s Roadkill Salvage Program.

“We are very proud of the work our rangers, special agents and law enforcement partners accomplished to ensure the successful outcome of this case,” NPS Alaska Regional Director Sarah Creachbaum stated. “A special thanks to the local hunters who witnessed the violations and helped out with the case.”