brown bears were found shot and left dead on the tundra
last week along a popular bear-viewing stream near the
northern border of Katmai National Park and Preserve,
prompting a criminal investigation by National Park Service
rangers with help from Alaska State Troopers.
The animals, including an adult female that had been
actively nursing, appeared to have been killed illegally
Creek about 12 miles south of Iliamna Lake, according
to rangers working the case.
The animals had not been gutted or skinned, a requirement
for anyone shooting in self-defense, said state and federal
officials familiar with the case. The area, about 120
miles west of Homer, is currently closed to state sport
subsistence hunting of bears.
A Homer-based air taxi operator discovered the carcasses
last week and reported them to rangers on Wednesday evening.
Katmai wilderness district ranger Missy Epping flew from
King Salmon and found a kill site in pouring rain along
the creek about three-quarters of a mile downstream from
One bear was the roughly 500-pound female. An estimated
300-pound bear, perhaps 2 to 3 years old, lay about 100
yards farther downstream and was slightly less decomposed.
It wasn't clear to Epping whether the younger bear was
the female's cub.
The sight of the two wasted carcasses was infuriating,
Epping said. "I can't say my initial reaction, because
it wasn't very professional."
Epping and Katmai chief ranger Dona Taylor would not
discuss whether any parts of the bear had been removed,
caliber or type of weapon used to kill them, saying they
didn't want to jeopardize their investigation by releasing
too many details.
The bottom line: We want this case, and we want to make
it stick," Epping said.
A team of rangers found the carcass of a third bear
about half a mile farther downstream Saturday, Epping
It also had been killed and left largely intact on the
but wasn't as decomposed as the first two.
Mirror Lake and Funnel Creek have become a popular
destination for bear viewing and fishing in the northern
of the 4 million-acre park and preserve.
More than 400 brown bears are thought to live in the
general area south of Iliamna Lake, said area management
Lem Butler, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game
in King Salmon. Five bears were taken in that area during
a state sport hunt open last spring.
Brown bears have been on the increase in this year, so
the population is healthy at this point," he said.
But the bears shot along Funnel Creek could be among
those that sometimes forage for salmon at the McNeil
across the mountains to the east, Butler said. He planned
to visit the area with Epping and a trooper this week.
We're asking for people to tell us if they saw anything
suspicious," Taylor said. "We're asking for help."
In a press release, the Park Service urged people with
information to call Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard
at 1-800-478-3377 or Katmai National Park and Preserve
Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra
can be reached at email@example.com.