Disturbing footage was released to the public this month, showing a father and son killing a hibernating black bear and her two cubs in the wilderness of Alaska. The killings were illegal, and the poachers didn’t realize that the bears were a part of a study conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service. All of the crimes were captured on security cameras, which also caught the men return to the scene of the crime to search for shell casings and other pieces of evidence that could tie them to the incident.
In the security footage, the men can be heard saying “they’ll never be able to link it to us” and “we go where we want to kill s—,” SF Gate reported.
The poachers were later identified as 41-year-old Andrew Renner and 18-year-old Owen Renner, a father and son duo.
The police report from the Alaskan troopers said that “The video shows A. Renner and O. Renner skiing up to the den and then O. Renner firing two shots at the denning sow. A. Renner then kills the shrieking newborn bear cubs and discards their bodies away from the den.”
The men seen in this video seem deranged, and don’t appear to be wearing many clothes for the cold temperatures of Alaska.
The footage that was later shown to the public is reportedly edited so it is significantly less graphic than the full video.
Both men were later found guilty of illegally killing a black bear mother and newborn cubs, but the father was the only one to receive jail time.
Andrew Renner was sentenced to five months in jail with two months suspended and a fine of $20,000 with $11,000 suspended. The state also confiscated many of his personal possessions that were used in the attack, including his boat, his 2012 GMC Sierra pickup truck, two rifles, two handguns, two iPhones, and two sets of skis. In addition to the loss of property and legal trouble, his hunting license was revoked for 10 years.
Owen Renner got off much easier than his father, with a suspended sentence and assignment to community service and a hunters safety course. His hunting license was suspended for just two years. In addition to the fines, both father and son were ordered to pay $1,800 restitution.
Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States told Newsweek that this issue is a sign of a greater problem.
“This video of a father and son killing a mother bear and her babies in their den and showing complete disregard for the lives they are taking is reprehensible. The Renners’ actions demonstrate the ruthless brutality that the government is poised to enact into law on millions of acres in Alaska, overturning a 2015 Obama-era rule that prohibits the killing of black bear mothers and cubs in their dens on these lands,” Block said.
“This kind of killing runs contrary to the very purpose of federal public lands like national preserves and national wildlife refuges. It is too sad and too late for this mom and her babies, but not too late for the government to abandon this heartless plan to enable such killing and instead maintain the rules that protect America’s iconic wildlife,” Block added.
The bears that were slaughtered by the poachers were a part of a study where their hibernation patterns were observed, and their actions were closely monitored by motion-activated cameras that were tripped as soon as the poachers entered the wildlife reserve.
Biologist Milo Burcham of USFS explained that they use the cameras because it would be impossible to keep an eye on all of the dens at once.
“We’re doing a bit of den work, and putting some cameras outside dens to see how many cubs the bears emerge with. In contrast to all the dens on Prince of Wales that are in upturned root wads or trees, none of the dens were associated with trees. All of them are in caves or under boulders. This is all a granitic landscape, and lacks the large trees found in Southeast Alaska,” Burcham said.
“Once they den we typically don’t get any locations for several months. We seldom get an idea where the den is from locations before they go in. But when they emerge in spring, they spend a week to two weeks at the entrance to the den. We get a good idea where the den is. There is also the VHF transmission, and we can use that to locate denning bears,” Burcham said.