ANCHORAGE — An Alaska judge sentenced a man to three months in jail for his role in the slaughter of a mother bear and her two cubs in their den — actions that were caught by a research camera.
Andrew Renner was sentenced Tuesday while his son Owen Renner received 30 days of suspended time in the April 2018 killings. Prosecutors say the father and son skied to the site on Esther Island in Prince William Sound, and that the son killed the mother bear in front of her two cubs and then the older man turned his rifle on the shrieking newborns.
A motion-activated camera set up outside the den as part of a bear study by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game captured the carnage.
The men pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor counts, including the illegal killing of the bears.
Aaron Peterson, an assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case, said jail time in wildlife cases is unusual.
“My office believes and argued for active jail time in this case because of the egregious nature of it, and the necessity of letting the public know Alaska will not tolerate poaching,” he said Wednesday. Peterson also prosecuted a case involving an Alaska man who was sentenced in December to nine months in jail and fined more than $100,000 for poaching three moose and leaving most of the meat to rot.
Andrew Renner’s attorney, Scott Sterling, declined to comment Wednesday. An attorney for Owen Renner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At their sentencing Tuesday, Andrew Renner, 41, was ordered to pay a $9,000 fine, forfeit a pickup truck, boat and trailer, weapons, skies and cell phones. His hunting license was revoked for 10 years. Owen Renner, 18, was ordered to take a hunters’ safety course and his hunting license was suspended for two years. Peterson said the younger man was seen as less culpable in the crimes.
Video showed the men approaching the den and noticing the female bear, according to court documents. The younger Renner fired at least two shots, causing the cubs to shriek. The men eventually realized the sounds were coming from the cubs, not their dead mother. Andrew Renner then shot the cubs.
The camera then catches the elder Renner saying, “It doesn’t matter. Bear down.”
They then realized the mother bear had a Fish and Game collar after dragging it from the den.
Andrew Renner then tossed the cubs’ carcasses onto the snow outside the den. In another video clip, the younger Renner said the collar was removed. “They’ll never be able to link it to us,” he said, before the two butchered the mother bear and placed the remains in game bags before skiing away.
Subsequent video showed them returning two days later. They retrieved the collar, picked up the shell casings, and placed the cubs’ bodies in a bag and skied away.
Authorities say Renner also falsified documentation about killing the animal when it was his son who did so and failed to note the number of bears illegally killed.
• By RACHEL D’ORO, Associated Press