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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Transporter Fined for Leaving Bear Carcasses

Caught: Two hunters recorded killing bears, abandoning carcasses

James Halpin / Anchorage Daily News / February 24, 2009

A big game transporter who helped two hunters, including one former wildlife official, leave carcasses of black bears killed near Ketchikan to rot on a beach hours before legally allowed to leave them has been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Randy Dobrydnia of Teasha Charters pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of unlawful acts by a big game transporter after a wildlife trooper, Jeremy Baum, spent three days hunkered in the woods wearing camouflage and videotaped the party gun down two black bears, skin them and leave the meat on a beach.

"We routinely post people out in the woods for stakeouts in areas of high concentration," said Lt. Bernard Chastain of the wildlife investigation unit.

The hunt took place May 31, just a day before it would have been legal to salvage only the bears' hides and skulls in the Portage Bay area, Chastain said. State game law requires bear meat be salvaged in the area only from Jan. 1 to May 31.

The hunters, David Gray, a retired game warden from South Dakota, and Curtis Bentz, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, told investigators they planned to begin their hunt June 1 so they wouldn't have to salvage the meat, but they arrived early and, with bears roaming the area, couldn't seem to wait, Chastain said.

"They absolutely knew they were acting in the wrong," Chastain said. "They got greedy, basically."

Gray, 62, and Bentz, 64, previously pleaded guilty to reduced charges of failure to salvage meat in exchange for agreeing to testify against Dobrydnia in court, prosecutor Andrew Peterson said.

"In a case like this where they're out with a guide, we expect the guide to be the eyes and ears for the community," Peterson said.

Dobrydnia, 55, ferried the men and bears to his seiner and then brought the men back to the beach to unload the skinned carcasses. When contacted by officials, Dobrydnia failed to report the hunting violations.

Reached at home Monday, Dobrydnia, a commercial fisherman supplementing his income by transporting hunters, said the violation took place just about eight hours before the cutoff while the men were supposed to be only scouting for bears. After they unwittingly dumped the carcasses in front of the trooper watching from the woods, officials boarded the vessel a few days later, he said.

"They point blank asked me, 'When did they shoot the bears,' and, you know, everybody on board lied," Dobrydnia said. "These guys were paying me big bucks to take them out, and I didn't think anybody was there. I didn't think it was that big a deal just to turn my head to it."

On Friday, Dobrydnia was ordered to pay $10,000 and placed on probation for three years, during which he can't work as a guide or transporter. He also had his transporter license revoked but the judge allowed him to keep the boat used in the hunt, Peterson said.

Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.

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