Alaska hunters who killed bears in den get jail time, hunting bans

Alaska hunters who killed bears in den get jail time, hunting bans
© Photo by Brad Young, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks

A pair of hunters who made headlines in the fall after being charged with illegally killing a denning black bear and her two newborn cubs on an island in Alaska’s Prince William Sound will get jail time.

Andrew Renner on Wednesday was sentenced to five months in jail with two months suspended, will pay $9,000 of $20,000 fine and will have his hunting license suspended for 10 years, the District Court for the State of Alaska in Anchorage ruled. His 18-year-old son, Owen Renner, was sentenced to suspended jail time, community service, will have to take a hunter safety course and had his hunting license suspended for two years.

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Each also have to pay $1,800 in restitution for killing the black bears.

The hunting duo pleaded guilty in November to charges related to the unlawful killing of the bears, unlawfully trophy possession and falsification of the sealing certificate.

The U.S. Forest Service linked the pair to the slaying of the three black bears in April through a recording taken of the collared mother bear. The bears were under surveillance by a motion-activated game camera placed at the den as part of a government study. Troopers were able to recover footage from the den.

The footage showed the Renners together fired at least two shots at the mother bear while it slept in its den. After the defendants moved closer to the den, Andrew Renner pointed his rifle at the newborn cubs at point blank range and fired several shots, killing them, according to the Alaska Department of Law press release.

The father was heard on camera saying, “It doesn’t matter, bear down,” after the slaying of the bears, according to the state’s charging documents.

The duo then butchered the mother bear for meat and returned two days later to collect the cub carcasses. The cubs were never recovered by authorities.

The two were formally charged in August.

“Protection of natural resources is of paramount importance,” Alaska’s assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson wrote in its sentencing memo.

“This is one of the last places on earth where most residents can drive a short distance from their home and hunt big game — that will only remain true if management is taken seriously and the punishments for violating the regulations designed to ensure healthy populations are severe.”

The verdict comes almost a year after the Trump administration in May published to the Federal Register a proposed rule change that would strip wildlife protections on animals in Alaska including black bears and their cubs.

The rule would reverse Obama-era protections from 2015 that prohibited certain hunting practices that otherwise were allowed by the state of Alaska. The practices previously prohibited that would be overturned under the rule change include the killing of all black bears by dogs and taking any black bears, or mothers and their cubs, with artificial light at den sites.

Under the new National Park Service rule, states would be allowed to determine their own protections and could remove the previous federal protections for wildlife.

The Interior Department’s agenda released in the fall said the rule was expected to be finalized in February.