(Anchorage, AK) – On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, District Court Judge Pamela Washington sentenced Wasilla residents Andrew and Owen Renner for poaching a denning black bear sow and two newborn cubs on an island in Prince William Sound. The defendants were convicted of eight and four counts respectively, related to the unlawful killing of the bears, unlawfully possessing the bears, and falsifying the sealing certificate. Andrew Renner was sentenced to five months in jail with two months suspended, pay a fine of $20,000 with $11,000 suspended, forfeit his 22’ Sea Sport ocean boat and trailer, 2012 GMC Sierra pickup truck, two rifles, two handguns, two iPhones, and two sets of backcountry skis which were used in the offenses. His hunting license was revoked for 10 years. Owen Renner was sentenced to suspended jail time, community works service and required to take a hunters safety course. His hunting license was suspended for two years. Both defendants were ordered to pay $1,800 restitution, the amount set by statute for killing black bears.
On April 23, 2018, a U.S. Forest Service employee reported to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers that a collared black bear sow with cubs was killed in its den on an island in Prince William Sound. The bears were being recorded by a motion-activated game camera placed at the den site in connection with a joint U.S. Forest Service / Alaska Department of Fish and Game bear study. Troopers recovered the camera and found that it contained multiple thirty-second HD video clips.
Recordings from April 14, 2018, showed Andrew Renner and his son Owen Renner approach the den on backcountry skis and locate the denning sow. Renner shouldered a rifle and fired at least two shots at the bear while it slept in its den. Seconds after the fatal gunshots, cubs began shrieking in the den. The defendants moved closer to the den, whereupon Andrew Renner pointed his rifle at the newborn cubs at point blank range and fired several shots, killing the bear cubs. The Renners proceeded to butcher the sow, place it in game bags, then ski away. The game camera also captured the defendants returning to the den site two days later, at which time they collected the cub carcasses in a small transparent bag and skied away with the poached cubs in their possession.
On April 30, 2018, Andrew Renner brought a sow black bear to ADF&G in Palmer and reported that he had killed it near in Prince William Sound. Renner falsified the Black Bear Sealing Certificate by writing on the form that he killed the bear and by failing to indicate “illegal take” in the Non-Hunting Kill Info field.
On January 22, 2019, the defendants were sentenced before the district court in Anchorage. The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson, with the Office of Special Prosecutions, told the court that this was the most egregious bear cub poaching case his office has ever seen. In requesting the sentence, AAG Peterson urged the court to impose a sentence that will dissuade others from committing similar offenses in the future. “Protection of natural resources in this state is of paramount importance. By protecting the wildlife and ensuring a biologically appropriate number of animals are present across any given location, we protect the very culture of Alaska. But without active game management, vigorous enforcement of the regulations, and significant sentencings for wildlife violators, the big game in Alaska can be wiped out—and the sport, subsistence, and cultural traditions of Alaskans gone with them.”
“The defendant, and anyone else that would pursue game in our state, should be on notice that killing a sow with cubs and then poaching the cubs to cover it up, will result in a significant jail term and loss of hunting privileges,” Peterson said. “People must know that poachers will be required to pay large fines and restitution for the illegal killing of the animals and that the vehicles, boat, planes, and instrumentalities used in wildlife crimes will be forfeited. These are the sentencing provisions that will let people know that Alaska does not tolerate poaching.”
The case was investigated by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers from the Palmer post and the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations.