Cable channel suspends hunting show amid poaching charges

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2015 3:29 AM
Cable channel suspends hunting show amid poaching charges

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A cable television network suspended a hunting show after the program's host and nine others involved in the production were charged in a federal poaching investigation at a national preserve in remote northwest Alaska.

The Sportsman Channel on Tuesday immediately suspended "The Syndicate" from airing on the network and launched its own internal investigation, said Jim Liberatore, CEO and president of Outdoor Sportsman Group Networks.

"We take this situation very seriously and have acted swiftly to suspend the show, its producers and talent," Liberatore said in a statement. "If true, what has been alleged is clearly unacceptable, unethical and against everything our networks stand for."

Prosecutors on Monday said more than two dozen grizzly bears, moose, caribou and Dall sheep were illegally killed in the Noatak National Preserve, which is north of the Arctic Circle and near Alaska's northwestern coast. The illegal kills ended up on the show, authorities alleged.

There were at least four hunts conducted in Alaska for the show over the last five years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki, the lead prosecutor, said at a news conference Monday that all the Alaska hunts for the show were conducted illegally but were edited to appear that they were legal.

The show's host, Clark W. Dixon, 41, of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, was charged in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks with two felony violations of the Lacey Act.

Dixon is accused of taking a grizzly bear for a fee in 2010 without being a licensed and registered big game hunting guide. He's also charged with conducting an illegal outfitting operation since 2009.

Dixon didn't return a message left by The Associated Press on Monday, and the phone at his home in Mississippi rang unanswered Tuesday.

Nine other people, who are from Alaska, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Nevada, and two production companies face related misdemeanors or tickets.

"The Syndicate" is independently produced and purchases air time on the Sportsman Channel, Liberatore said.

One of the production companies cited for using footage shot in the preserve without a permit called the network's decision to suspend the show "unfortunate." However, the statement from Syndicate Hunting of Reno, Nevada, adds: "While disheartened, we respect their decision to do so."

It also says once it became aware of the allegations, it severed ties with Dixon and another person charged. It was unclear when the company found out about the investigation and when ties were cut.