Sitka teens sentenced for illegally killing, dumping bears

A couple of Sitka teens have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the illegal killing of bears on a road north of town last fall and will forfeit their hunting rights temporarily, pay fines and lose the firearms and gear used in the violations.

Peter Holst and Bae Barkhoefer were 16 years old at the time of the offenses but were prosecuted as adults, as is allowed under state law for fish and game violations. Barkhoefer took part in only the first of the two bear killings to which Holst pleaded guilty.

The state charged that on Sept. 30, 2022, the two young men shot and killed a brown bear at night on the Nelson Logging Road, less than a quarter mile from Halibut Point Road. State Wildlife Trooper Kyle Ferguson said in his affidavit that the teens used the headlights of their truck as a spotlight to illuminate the target.

Ferguson’s statement said that following the shooting, Holst “with the assistance of Barkhoefer and other juveniles, loaded the illegally killed bear into his pickup truck and transported it to a location on Harbor Mountain Road, where the carcass was dumped down an embankment in order to conceal the illegal take of a bear.”

About a week later, on Oct. 8, Holst returned to the Nelson Logging Road with a different friend — who did not face charges but rather was a witness in the case — and shot and killed another bear. Again, the teens dumped the carcass on the Harbor Mountain Road.

Alaska statutes put multiple requirements on the hunting and killing of bears. The bear’s hide, claws and skull must be kept, tagged and reported to the state. Hunting close to a road is prohibited, as is hunting out of season or in certain closed areas. It’s unlawful to take game by using artificial light under most circumstances. In the Sitka area, a hunter is restricted to only one bear every four years.

The trooper’s affidavit states that Holst kept only the claws and a piece of the hide.

On Sept. 20 of this year, Holst pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful methods of taking game, unlawful possession or transportation of game and failure to salvage a brown bear’s hide or skull, one for each of the bears killed.

He was sentenced to a $3,500 fine, or the alternative of performing 325 hours of community service. He is also to pay $2,600 in restitution and to forfeit equipment confiscated during the investigation. He was placed on probation for four years and is not to hunt or trap for the next 24 months.

Barkhoefer pleaded guilty to similar charges on Aug. 2 of this year. He also pleaded guilty to the taking of a brown bear without a valid tag. He was fined $1,250 and is to be on probation for two years, with no hunting or trapping for 12 months.

 

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