A man who was caught on camera shooting a mother bear and her two cubs has been sentenced to three months in jail.
41-year-old Andrew Renner and his 18-year-old son Owen killed the animals in April last year, after skiing to the remote den where the bears were resting on Esther Island in the Gulf of Alaska.
The pair were unaware the mother and her cubs were part of an observation programme being conducted by the US Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who had set up a camera by the den.
According to court documents the footage shows the two men approaching the den and noticing the female bear. The teenager shot the mother, causing the cubs to shriek and cry before Andrew turned his weapon on the helpless babies.
The documents read:
Owen Renner shoulders a rifle and fires as least two shots at the bear. Cubs begin shrieking in the den after the initial shots are fired. The defendants listen for several minutes and eventually realise 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.
The pair dragged the slaughtered animals away from their den and the father noticed the mother bear was wearing a Fish and Game collar, but he assured Owen they wouldn’t be caught.
Andrew said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Bear down,’ while Owen added, ‘They’ll never be able to link it to us.’
The father and son placed the mother’s remains in game bags before skiing away. The pair were said to have returned two days later to retrieve the collar, shell casings, and cubs’ bodies.
A couple of weeks later, Andrew took the black bear skin to a state wildlife office, saying he and his son had killed it near Granite Bay in Prince William Sound. Troopers interviewed the father, who said he skinned the bear and brought the collar in but claimed he had no knowledge of the sow having cubs and saw no cubs in the area.
It’s illegal to kill black bear cubs or sows with cubs in most of Alaska according to state law, and the pair pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanour counts including killing the bears.
Authorities say Renner falsified documentation claiming it was he who killed the mother bear, when in fact it was his son who was responsible for the killing.
Andrew was sentenced to three months in jail, while Owen was sentenced to 30 days of suspended time behind bars.
Assistant attorney general Aaron Peterson, who prosecuted the case, admitted it was unusual for jail time to be given in wildlife cases, but explained the sentencing was necessary to show Alaska doesn’t tolerate poaching.
According to Anchorage Daily News, as reported in The Mirror, he said:
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.
What we saw is that there were two bear cubs that were completely defenceless and were shot at point-blank range.
On top of the jail time, Andrew was ordered to pay a $9,000 (£6,900) fine, as well as forfeit his pickup truck, boat and trailer, weapons, skies and cell phones.
The father also had his hunting license revoked for 10 years.
Meanwhile Owen, who Peterson explained was seen as less culpable in the crimes, was ordered to take a hunters’ safety course and had his hunting license suspended for two years.
Their actions were truly heartless.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.