Case Dismissed Against Hiker Who Freed Trapped Eagle

Kathleen Adair says she feels relieved with the court’s decision to dismiss the case against her. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Kathleen Adair says she feels relieved with the court’s decision to dismiss the case against her. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The State of Alaska dropped its case against a Juneau woman who was cited for springing legal traps and freeing a bald eagle.

At Kathleen Adair’s arraignment Thursday, the district attorney asked the judge to dismiss the case and encouraged Adair to continue freeing eagles.

District Attorney James Scott says Kathleen Adair did violate the law when she triggered the traps on her way out of the Davies Creek trail. But he says he used his prosecutorial discretion.

“There is space between the technical violation of a law and whether or not a case should be brought, and sometimes cases fall within that space, and I think Ms. Adair’s case is a perfect example,” Scott says.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers cited Adair on Jan. 10 for intentionally hindering lawful traps on Dec. 24. Adair says she sprang a total of three traps out of concern for the safety of dogs and hikers. She also freed an eagle that was caught in two traps. Despite her efforts to save the eagle, it was euthanized later that day.

Scott reminds the public that tampering with lawfully set traps is treated like a criminal offense. Anyone caught doing it could face jail time.

District Attorney James Scott (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
District Attorney James Scott (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

But, as Scott said in the courtroom, he considers what Adair did for the eagle admirable.

“If she finds herself in the same situation I hope she does the same thing again. However, before she takes it upon herself to trip traps generally, I really encourage her to meet with and talk to the other folks with an interest in this to keep us from having to go to court at all. That’s really my goal here,” Scott says.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Aaron Frenzel says his office had a valid case and stands by the decision to charge Adair.

“If the law is violated we have the duty for both the victim in this case, as we would with any case, to bring charges forward on an individual. It was clearly violated so we felt like the charges were appropriate,” Frenzel says.

He stresses Adair was not given the citation for freeing the eagle or springing a trap in the immediate area; she was cited for tampering with another trap twice over a span of four days. Frenzel says the complainant, called “J.F.” in official paperwork, had said even more of his lawful traps were sprung during that time period.

“To say who, if maybe something else set off other traps, who knows? We know what she had advised us of and what he had advised us of, and was there more? I don’t know,” he says.

Adair says she feels relieved with the court’s decision. She says in hindsight, she may have acted differently.

“I probably would’ve left the eagle there. I mean, it saved the eagle from some suffering but they ended up having to put the eagle down anyway and all of this hassle just – I don’t know whether it was worth it or not,” Adair says.

Then again, “It’s hard to say if I would or not. When the eagle is staring at you the way that one was, it’s really hard to say what you’d really do,” she says.

Adair says she might pursue the official steps to limit trapping on Davies Creek Trail.