Alaska guide pleads guilty to herding bears toward clients

Alaska guide pleads guilty to herding bears toward clients

Brian Simpson was also fined $35,000 and sentenced to a year of probation.

ANCHORAGE — An Alaska hunting guide who instructed employees on snowmobiles to herd grizzly bears toward clients has lost his master guide’s license for life.

Brian Simpson of Fairbanks, operating as Wittrock Outfitters, also was fined $35,000 and sentenced to a year of probation Thursday in Nome District Court. He also was ordered to pay $2,600 in restitution for the killing of two grizzly bears.

In a plea deal, Simpson pleaded guilty to two counts of “aiding in the commission of a violation” for using his employees to turn bears toward his hunting clients. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of guiding within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, where hunting is allowed but guiding without a federal permit is not.

The illegal actions took place on the Seward Peninsula north of Nome.

Simpson, 57, conducted spring bear hunts from Shishmaref, a Chukchi Sea village of 560 just north of the Bering Strait.

Alaska state wildlife troopers in April 2016 received a tip from Wildlife Safeguard, a nonprofit volunteer citizen organization, that Simpson had taken nonresident hunters to Serpentine Hot Springs within the national preserve.

Investigators determined that a hunter killed a bear April 26 with help from Simpson’s employee, Matthew Iyatunguk.

According to the criminal complaint filed by assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson, the hunters spotted a grizzly and Simpson instructed him to “turn it around,” Iyatunguk told troopers.

“Iyatunguk explained that he chased the bear from about 30 yards behind until it was tired from running through the deep snow. Iyatunguk stated that he normally ‘drives the bear’ towards the hunters by revving the engine and making the machine ‘scream,’” the complaint said.

As Iyatunguk chased the bear back, Simpson’s client shot it from 150 yards.

A second client and a second employee told a similar story of a hunt two days later. Assistant guide Tyler Weyiouanna told troopers he routinely used his snowmobile to get ahead of grizzlies to scare them toward hunters.

“Weyiouanna explained that Simpson had spotted this bear and he (Weyiouanna) chased it on his snow machine and cut if off to prevent it from running from the hunter,” the criminal complaint said.

Weyiouanna turned the bear back toward the hunting client, who shot it.

Iyatunguk and Weyiouanna last spring pleaded guilty to using a motorized vehicle to harass game. Both were fined $500.


• This is an Associated Press report by Dan Joling.


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