Hunting charges dismissed against Kilchers

Charges that they used a helicopter to hunt for black bear have been dismissed against Atz Lee and Jane Kilcher, a Homer couple who star in the reality TV show “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” Alaska Wildlife Troopers alleged that the Kilchers had been transported by helicopter to Bradley Lake in September 2014 to hunt for black bear as part of an episode later broadcast in January 2015. 

The production company that filmed the episode, Wilma TV of Encino, Calif., pleaded guilty to an amended charge, a violation of using an unlawful method to take or attempt to take game. Using a helicopter in any manner to hunt is illegal under Alaska law. In a sentencing hearing on Feb. 16, Homer District Court Judge Margaret Murphy fined Wilma TV $17,500 for the violation. As part of the dismissal of the charges, Jane Kilcher, 41, and Atz Lee Kilcher, 39, agreed to testify against Wilma TV if needed, said Jane Kilcher’s lawyer, Kevin Fitzgerald.

In an affidavit filed last October by Alaska Wildlife Trooper Trent Chwialkowski, he wrote that a Homer man hired by Wilma TV to work as a medic on the filming made a complaint in September 2014 that there might have been a hunting violation. Chwialkowski said the medic told him a Wilma TV producer warned the medic not to tell the helicopter company contracted for the filming that there would be hunting. The medic wound up not working on the project.

Chwialkowski saw the episode, “Fall Bear Fall,” in January 2015, and said the episode shows the Kilchers shooting at a black bear. Chwialkowski contacted the helicopter company. The company confirmed flying the Kilchers and the production crew to Bradley Lake, but said they had no knowledge of a planned hunting trip. Chwialkowski talked to two Wilma TV producers and he said they told him they had used a floatplane to hunt in an earlier episode and thought using a helicopter was the same thing and not an issue. 

When Chwialkowski interviewed the Kilchers, he said the couple told him they had been under pressure from the producers to get a bear. Atz Lee Kilcher “told the producers that it was illegal to go over by helicopter; they said he should just go and it will work out,” Chwialkowski wrote in his affidavit.

Fitzgerald said Jane Kilcher didn’t commit a crime. 

“The charge against them concerned the take of a black bear,” he said. “A black bear was never taken.”

Fitzgerald said the episode purported to show the Kilchers going after an animal.

“Though they saw an animal, there was no attempt to take that specific animal,” Fitzgerald said. “Sometimes, even reality TV isn’t what actually occurs.”

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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