ANCHORAGE - Four men have been charged in an illegal black bear hunt on Prince of Wales Island after an undercover investigation by Alaska and Idaho authorities posing as hunters, Alaska State Troopers said Monday.
The men were arrested in the Southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan as they got off a commuter ferry bringing them back from the seven-day hunt.
"I think they were pretty surprised," said Sgt. Burke Waldron in the troopers' wildlife investigations unit.
The men face numerous misdemeanor criminal charges, including operating without a state guiding license, leaving carcasses to rot and taking more than the legal limit. More charges are expected to be filed, troopers said.
Authorities were tipped to the case in an e-mail that Gary Sanders of Goodyear, Ariz., was advertising his guiding services on the Internet, offering hunts for black bear in Alaska and deer in Idaho even though he's not licensed to do so in either state, Waldron said. Sanders, 40, was convicted last year for unlicensed guiding in Idaho, Alaska authorities said.
"It looks like he's been doing this at least three years," Waldron said. "We're aware of at least nine clients in Alaska this year."
Alaska and Idaho wildlife authorities worked together on the current case. An undercover officer from each state posed as a hunter and made online arrangements to join the excursion on the island about 140 miles south of Juneau.
Each officer paid $1,950 apiece for the guiding service, lodging and food. That's about half what a legitimate operation would cost, Waldron said.
Also along for the trip were Robert Novak, 40, of Auburn, Wash., accused of working as Sanders' assistant, and two hunters, Robert Disidori, 31, a repeat client from Mickleton, N.J., and his friend, John Shields, 31, of Rising Sun, Md.
Sanders apparently didn't shoot any of the four bears killed or a fifth bear that was wounded but fled, Waldron said. One of the bears was killed by the officers, but the others were shot by other members of the party. That exceeded the annual limit for the area of one bear per hunter.
The men discarded the meat of two of the dead bears, leaving one of the animals with the hide intact, Waldron said. The rest of the meat was legally given away to residents of the island town of Craig.
"One of the hunters seemed to have blood lust," Waldron said. "He just likes to kill."
Sanders and Novak are charged with multiple counts of guiding without a license and other violations including wanton waste. Novak also is charged with exceeding the legal limit of black bear. Disidori and Shields are charged with wildlife violations including wanton waste and exceeding the legal limit.
Charges were filed in District Court in Ketchikan but will likely be transferred to Craig, Waldron said.
All four pleaded innocent at their arraignment Sunday on the misdemeanor charges.
A preliminary trial date is set for June 24.