Crime & Courts

Alaska guide and assistants accused of herding bears for hunters

A master hunting guide in Western Alaska has been charged with instructing his employees to herd grizzly bears so clients would have a better shot at them, according to charges filed in Alaska District Court.

Brian L. Simpson, 55, faces five misdemeanor counts of illegal guiding that include entering federal land to guide without permission and instructing his employees to violate state game regulations, according to charging documents filed Aug. 17.

Simpson's employees were also charged. Tyler Weyiouanna, 25, faces charges of violating game regulations and using a motor vehicle to herd game. Matthew Iyatunguk, 23, was charged with one count of herding game.

According to the charging documents, Simpson, who guides spring bear hunts out of Shishmaref, is alleged to have taken numerous clients into the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve without prior authorization.

While in the preserve in April 2016, Simpson allegedly took clients to the Serpentine Hot Springs area. On at least two occasions, according to charging documents, Simpson instructed Weyiouanna and Iyatunguk to herd the bears toward clients using snowmachines.

In one instance, Iyatunguk told investigators, he chased the bear on his snowmachine from about 30 yards away until it was "tired from running through the deep snow." He told investigators that he normally "drives the bear" toward hunters by revving the engine and making it "scream," the charging document stated.

Weyiouanna, Simpson's assistant guide, told investigators he usually went after the bears to "scare them back to hunters" so the clients could get a closer shot.

Weyiouanna told investigators that chasing bears with snowmachines was a common practice with Simpson, according to the charging document.

Simpson and Weyiouanna face up to a year in jail and a $30,000 fine if convicted, while Iyatunguk faces a up to a year in jail and a $25,000 fine. Other possible penalties include the loss of hunting and guiding privileges.