Men sentenced to prison for killing Katmai bears

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Two men were sentenced to a month in prison for shooting and killing four bears at a popular bear viewing area in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

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The men then left the carcasses to rot in the preserve. They included the carcasses of a sow and her young cub.

Stephen John Nowatak, 27, and Travis J. Kernak, 21, both of Kokhanok, were charged with taking wildlife in a national preserve. Magistrate Judge John D. Roberts sentenced the two Thursday in federal court in Anchorage.

Nowatak and Kernak will have to do one month in prison and one year probation. They also are being required to complete 40 hours of community service.

The 2004 deaths of the four animals was the largest known number of brown bears killed by poachers in a single incident in Alaska's national parks, said Troy Hamon, the acting superintendent at Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Nowatak and Kernak, in late July and early August, each traveled about 15 miles by four-wheeler from their village to Funnel Creek. Along the creek, each shot two brown bears, leaving them to go to waste without harvesting the hides, meat or heads.

Funnel Creek is an area used by flight-seeing services and lodges for bear viewing and fishing.

Hunting is allowed in the national preserve, but National Park Service regulations incorporate the hunting laws and regulations of the state of Alaska to control it.

The charges against both men are based on regulatory violations for hunting the bears during a closed season and failing to salvage skulls and hides.

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