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Crime & Courts

Newly released video shows Alaska father and son killing sow bear and screeching cubs in den

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: March 30, 2019
  • Published March 29, 2019

PALMER — A newly released video shows two Mat-Su men — a father and son — shooting a black bear in her den on an island in Prince William Sound and then turning a gun on her two cubs left shrieking inside.

A game camera captured Andrew Renner, 41, and Owen Renner, 18, skiing up to a den on Esther Island in mid-April 2018 before shooting the bears. They returned a few days later to cover up the crime.

The Humane Society of the United States released the video this week after obtaining it through a public records request. The graphic images showing the illegal killing — and the men celebrating it — is generating broad public outcry including from the hunting community.

Owen Renner, shirtless, appears to pick up spent shells as his father gets closer to the den and shoots both cubs. They pull out the female and high-five over her body with bloody hands. Authorities said they soon spotted a government collar on the bear and realized they needed to hide their actions.

The younger man says, “They’ll never be able to link it to us, I don’t think.” His father snaps a photo of him with the sow, holding up a paw.

“You and me don’t f--- around,” Owen Renner is heard saying. “We go where we want to kill s---.”

The video shows them coming back two days later, again on skis. The men retrieved the collar, picked up spent shell casings and talked about disposing of the bear cubs, according to a summary of an Alaska State Troopers report filed with charges last year.

Andrew Renner on the video is heard saying he’s going into the den to “make sure there’s no little parts.”

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

Anchorage District Court Judge Pamela Washington sentenced the Renners in late January after they reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

Andrew Renner is serving a three-month sentence at Cordova Center, an Anchorage halfway house. He faces an additional two months if he violates other conditions of his sentence.

His son received a suspended 30-day sentence, meaning he doesn’t have to do time unless he violates other conditions of his sentence such as taking a hunter safety course.

Assistant attorney general Aaron Peterson said he asked for a harsher sentence for Andrew Renner -- 25 months incarceration, a $100,000 fine and that he lose his hunting license altogether -- but the one handed down was still among the harshest for a non-guiding poaching case in Alaska.

“I think that people in the field will think twice about the sentence before doing something like this, but I feel the vast majority of hunters wouldn’t do something like this,” Peterson said.

This week’s publicity over the video generated a number of calls and emails to his office, he said Friday. “A lot of people are very complimentary. A lot of people think they should have gotten a harsher sentence.”

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

The game camera footage provided evidence investigators used to make the case, authorities said at the time.

It’s not legal to shoot cubs in a den, or a sow with cubs, in the area of Esther Island. 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 last year. 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 Fish and Game document by saying he shot the bear when his son was seen doing it, and not describing the kill as an “illegal take.”

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.

The elder Renner was sentenced to a $9,000 fine, and forfeited property that was confiscated from him, including a 22-foot Sea Sport ocean boat and trailer, a 2012 GMC Sierra pickup, two rifles, two handguns, two iPhones and two sets of backcountry skis that were used in the crime. His hunting license was revoked for 10 years.

Owen Renner was convicted of four counts related to the killing and transporting of the bears. He was sentenced to 30 days of suspended jail time and will also be required to perform community service and take a hunter safety course. His hunting license was suspended for two years.

Each was ordered to pay $1,800 in restitution.

Andrew Renner failed to report to the halfway house as ordered Feb. 21, a state courts database shows, but started his sentence March 1.