Crime & Courts

Troopers: Outdoor Channel star helped cover up illegal Alaska bear kill

An Outdoor Channel host conspired with her Alaska guides to cover up accidentally shooting a second bear during a Western Alaska hunt, troopers say.

The Alaska State Troopers said in a Tuesday dispatch that 25-year-old Theresa Vail, host of "Limitless With Theresa Vail," was charged with two misdemeanor offenses: taking a brown or grizzly bear without a tag, and second-degree unsworn falsification.

A biography of Vail on the show's website, which says it places her "in circumstances where she is constantly pushing the limits and testing boundaries," describes Vail as a former Miss Kansas and top 10 Miss America finisher who is also a member of the Kansas Army National Guard.

Both of Vail's guides were also charged in the case. Master guide Michael "Wade" Renfro, 46 -- the contracting registered guide for the hunt and operator of Bethel-based Renfro's Alaskan Adventures -- and Renfro's assistant guide Joseph Andrew Miller, 45, were each charged with failing to report a hunting violation and committing, aiding or allowing a violation. Renfro was also charged with second-degree unsworn falsification.

Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen said in an email Monday that the incident leading to the charges was reported to Alaska Wildlife Troopers by Vail's film crew on June 3, after a hunt that took place from May 18 to May 27 near Timber Creek, south of Holy Cross in Game Management Unit 19.

"(Miller) was Vail's guide when she shot and killed two brown/grizzly bears," Ipsen wrote. "Vail first shot a boar, and in the haste to finish her kill, instead of finishing off the boar she shot a nearby sow."?

Bethel-based wildlife troopers viewed footage of the kills as part of the investigation, Ipsen said. A spokesperson for the Outdoor Channel said the hunt in question never aired on the network.


"(I)nvestigation showed that Theresa Vail had taken a brown/grizzly bear without a tag, and that registered guide Renfro obtained a locking tag under false pretense and then falsified paperwork to support and claim that the animal was taken lawfully," troopers wrote in the dispatch. "Guide Miller and client Vail were accomplice to these actions."

Ipsen said there was no immediate word on whether any parts of the bears' carcasses, or the rifles or aircraft used during the hunt, have been forfeited to wildlife troopers. There also wasn't any word on whether additional charges may be filed in the case, which is being handled by the state Office of Special Prosecutions.

"That's something the prosecutor will have to decide," Ipsen said.

Asked for initial comment on the charges Monday, staff at the Outdoor Channel said Vail would be hosting the fifth season of "NRA All Access," a show backed by the National Rifle Association and set to air on the channel beginning Dec. 30.

Correction: This story originally stated Michael Renfro's age as 45. He is 46.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.