2 accused of illegal black bear kills caught on video
Two Wasilla men stand accused of illegally shooting three Prince William Sound black bears, a crime Alaska State Troopers say was recorded by a video camera at their den.
Court records show Andrew Renner, 41, and Owen Renner, 18, are both charged with three counts each of illegally taking a bear cub or female bear and unlawfully transporting game. Andrew Renner faces additional counts of tampering with physical evidence, unsworn falsification and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
According to a Wednesday statement from troopers, the Renners were charged Monday. The April 14 encounter during which the sow and its two cubs were poached took place on Esther Island.
The sow, which was part of a joint study by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, had been fitted with a radio collar; a motion-activated camera was set up to record the bears' den.
“The video shows A. Renner and O. Renner skiing up to the den and then O. Renner firing two shots at the denning sow,” troopers wrote. “A. Renner then kills the shrieking newborn bear cubs and discards their bodies away from the den. Two days after the animals were killed, A. Renner and O. Renner return to the kill site to pick up the [shell casings] and to dispose of the dead bear cubs.”
Charging documents in the case, filed by Assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson with the state Office of Special Prosecutions, give a more precise account of what the camera captured in 30-second clips as the Renners killed the bears.
"Owen Renner shoulders a rifle and fires at least two shots at the bear," Peterson wrote. "The defendants listen for several minutes and eventually realize that it is not the dead sow, but the orphaned cubs making the sounds. The defendants then move closer to the den where Andrew Renner takes aim through his rifle scope only feet away and fires several more shots, killing the newborn bear cubs. Andrew Renner is captured on video saying. 'It doesn't matter. Bear down.'"
Soon afterward, Peterson said, the video shows the Renners noticing the sow's collar.
"Undeterred, Andrew Renner states, 'I'm gonna get rid of these guys' while tossing the cubs' limp carcasses onto the snow outside the den," Peterson wrote.
A subsequent clip shows the Renners discussing the sow's carcass.
"Owen Renner says, 'We got the collar off' and Andrew Renner responds, 'We're gonna skin it that way,'" Peterson wrote. "Owen Renner agrees, saying, 'They'll never be able to link it to us.'"
Video from the camera on April 16, when the Renners returned to the den, showed them removing shell casings and discussing where they had fired from.
After the bear kills, troopers said, Andrew Renner brought the sow’s skin and collar to Fish and Game's Palmer office on April 30, falsely reporting he had killed the sow near Prince William Sound’s Granite Bay.
“He further reported that while he realized after shooting it that the sow had teats, no cubs were present or located,” troopers wrote.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers Col. Steve Hall said in the statement that several assets had been taken from the Renners in connection with the case under state law, including the hunting rifles used to kill the bears.
“Tools used in the commission of a crime are at times seized based upon the severity of the crime,” Hall said. “In this case, numerous crimes, including felonies, are believed to have been committed; the truck and boat used to transport the suspects to and from the crime scene were seized.”
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