Alaska guide pleads guilty to herding bears toward clients

Alaska guide pleads guilty to herding bears toward clients

  • By DAN JOLING Associated Press
  • Tuesday, January 8, 2019 10:24pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Alaska hunting guide who instructed employees on snowmobiles to herd grizzly bears toward clients has lost his master guide’s license for life.

Brian Simpson of Fairbanks, operating as Wittrock Outfitters, also was fined $35,000 and sentenced to a year of probation Thursday in Nome District Court. He also was ordered to pay $2,600 in restitution for the killing of two grizzly bears.

In a plea deal, Simpson pleaded guilty to two counts of “aiding in the commission of a violation” for using his employees to turn bears toward his hunting clients. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of guiding within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, where hunting is allowed but guiding without a federal permit is not.

The illegal actions took place on the Seward Peninsula north of Nome.

Simpson, 57, conducted spring bear hunts from Shishmaref, a Chukchi Sea village of 560 just north of the Bering Strait.

Alaska state wildlife troopers in April 2016 received a tip from Wildlife Safeguard, a nonprofit volunteer citizen organization, that Simpson had taken nonresident hunters to Serpentine Hot Springs within the national preserve.

Investigators determined that a hunter killed a bear April 26 with help from Simpson’s employee, Matthew Iyatunguk.

According to the criminal complaint filed by assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson, the hunters spotted a grizzly and Simpson instructed him to “turn it around,” Iyatunguk told troopers.

“Iyatunguk explained that he chased the bear from about 30 yards behind until it was tired from running through the deep snow. Iyatunguk stated that he normally ‘drives the bear’ towards the hunters by revving the engine and making the machine ‘scream,’” the complaint said.

As Iyatunguk chased the bear back, Simpson’s client shot it from 150 yards.

A second client and a second employee told a similar story of a hunt two days later. Assistant guide Tyler Weyiouanna told troopers he routinely used his snowmobile to get ahead of grizzlies to scare them toward hunters.

“Weyiouanna explained that Simpson had spotted this bear and he (Weyiouanna) chased it on his snow machine and cut if off to prevent it from running from the hunter,” the criminal complaint said.

Weyiouanna turned the bear back toward the hunting client, who shot it.

Iyatunguk and Weyiouanna last spring pleaded guilty to using a motorized vehicle to harass game. Both were fined $500.


• By DAN JOLING, Associated Press


More in News

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Chief J.J. Hendrickson plays with Torch the cat at the Kenai Animal Shelter on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna, Kenai to extend animal control partnership

So far this year, the Kenai shelter has served roughly 190 animals

Transportation professionals tour the Sterling Highway and Birch Avenue intersection in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, May 22, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna brainstorming pop-up pedestrian safety project

The temporary project aims to boost pedestrian safety near Soldotna Creek Park

Most Read