Big game transporter fined for helping hunters

Men left black bear carcasses on beach, were fined $10,000

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A Ketchikan big game transporter who helped two hunters leave carcasses of black bears to rot on a beach a day before it was legal to do so has been fined $10,000.

Randy Dobrydnia of Teasha Charters pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of unlawful acts by a big game transporter.

A wildlife trooper, Jeremy Baum, spent three days in camouflage staking out the area. He videotaped two hunters, including a former South Dakota game warden, shoot 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, one 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 to be salvaged in the area only from Jan. 1 to May 31.

One hunter was David Gray, a retired game warden from South Dakota. The other was Curtis Bentz, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

They told investigators they planned to begin their hunt June 1 so they would not have to salvage the meat, but they arrived early. With bears roaming the area, they did not 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 by the Anchorage Daily News, Dobrydnia, a commercial fisherman supplementing his income by transporting hunters, said the violation took place about eight hours before the cutoff while the men were supposed to be scouting for bears.

Officials boarded the vessel a few days later.

"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."

Besides the fine, Dobrydnia was placed on probation for three years and he had his transporter license.

The judge allowed him to keep the boat used in the hunt, Peterson said.

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