Credit: Mark Newman Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom

Credit: Mark Newman Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom

He was on his property, it was his cabbage to give, and no one claims that he meant any harm to his amply-antlered friends.  But 67-year old Samuel Becker is facing prison for giving visiting moose vegetables to munch on, reports Fox News.

After receiving a tip last month that Becker had been feeding moose, Alaska State Troopers responded to the scene.  They claim that Becker fed moose on the day of their visit.  And so, Becker will appear in court on Feb. 3 to face a misdemeanor charge of intentionally feeding game.  He faces a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year in jail.

That’s right–a year behind bars.

Enticing moose onto one’s land may not be a brilliant idea.  Moose can be dangerous beasts, as Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters explained to Fox News: “Even if they don’t attack you, your presence around them could agitate them, and it could make it more dangerous for somebody else passing by that might not even know the moose is standing there.”  It’s reasonable to discourage people from getting too close to moose with civil fines, but it’s beyond the pale to threaten them with jail time.

Do we really think these are serious charges?  Isn’t the threat of heavy fines and jail an empty one?  If only this were so.  In 2010, retired Alaskan schoolteacher Charlie Vandergaw was fined $20,000 after he pleaded guilty to charges of illegally feeding bears.  Sure, it was stupid.  But a crime? Treating such infractions as crimes can ruin people’s lives.

In the name of protecting Becker from the consequences of his admittedly questionable decisions, the state of Alaska is poised to inflict a far more grave injury.  The continued existence of such criminal laws represents more of a threat to our livelihoods, reputations, and liberties than unruly moose.  These criminal charges should be dropped and the matter should be resolved through the civil justice system.

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