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Game camera captures father and son shooting bear and ‘shrieking’ cubs in den

Anchorage Daily New August 8th 2018
PALMER — A father and son from the Matanuska Valley are accused of illegally shooting a sow black bear and its two newborn cubs in a den, then trying to cover up their actions without realizing a game camera was running the whole time.

Andrew Renner, 41, and Owen Renner, 18, were charged this week with felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from the mid-April poaching incident on Esther Island in Prince William Sound, according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch Wednesday.

The charges were filed Monday in Anchorage District Court, records show.

An attorney for Andrew Renner said he hadn’t seen the charges and couldn’t comment.

The bears were part of a U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game study, and the men’s activity was captured by a motion-triggered game camera, troopers say. The sow was also collared.

A series of 30-second video clips from the camera provided investigators with evidence for their case, court documents show.

One clip shows both Renners skiing near the den on April 14 and then noticing the sow, according to charging documents filed in the case.

Owen Renner shoulders his rifle and fires at least two shots at her, according to sworn summary of an Alaska Wildlife Troopers report filed by Assistant District Attorney Aaron Peterson. “Cubs begin shrieking in the den after the initial shots are fired.”

The men listen for several minutes before realizing the cubs are making the sounds, the document says. They move closer and Andrew Renner, just a feet away, takes aim through his rifle scope and fires several more shots, killing the newborn cubs.

“Andrew Renner is captured on video saying ‘It doesn’t matter. Bear down,’ ” Peterson wrote.

The pair drag the sow from the den and see the collar, the document says. Renner can be heard saying, “I’m gonna get rid of these guys” while tossing the carcasses of the cubs onto the snow outside the den.

He disappears with the cubs while his son waits at the den, the document says.

The next clip shows Owen Renner saying, “We got the collar off,” and his father responding, “We’re gonna skin it that way,” pointing away from the den, the document states. The younger man agrees,” saying, ‘They’ll never be able to link it to us.’ ”

They butchered the sow, put the meat in game bags and skied away, according to the summary.

The camera also captured the men returning to the den site two days later to retrieve the collar, pick up spent shell casings and discuss disposing of the bear cubs, the document says. One of the men says he’s going into the den to “make sure there aren’t any little parts.”

They put the cub carcasses in a small transparent bag and skied away with them, the document says.

A U.S. Forest Service employee reported the deaths of the sow and cubs to Alaska Wildlife Troopers on April 23. That’s when troopers recovered the camera.

The sow was one of 20 fitted with collars for a three-year study that started in 2016, according to Fish and Game. The study by the department and Chugach National Forest came in response to concerns about declining numbers of black bears in Prince William Sound.

There is a legal, registration permit black bear hunt for the area from September into June.

On April 30, Andrew Renner brought the sow bear skin and collar to Fish and Game in Palmer and said he’d killed it near Granite Bay, troopers said. He also said that, while he realized after shooting it the sow had teats, he didn’t see any sign of cubs. He is also accused of falsifying the document by saying he shot the bear when his son was seen doing it, and not describing the kill as an “illegal take.”

Investigators seized a boat, vehicle and hunting rifles, troopers said.

Misdemeanor charges against the men include unlawful take of a female bear with cubs, unlawful take of bear cubs, and the possession and transportation of illegally taken game.

Andrew Renner was charged with tampering with physical evidence, a felony, as well as contributing to the delinquency of a minor — his son was 17 at the time — and unsworn falsification.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect the fact that the charges against Andrew and Owen Renner were not by indictment.

About this Author

Zaz Hollander

Veteran ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in Wasilla and covers the Mat-Su region and breaking news.

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