Another senseless poaching. Another case that leaves one asking, “Does the punishment fit the crime?”. Maybe I just expect too much; I don’t know. But somehow, I’m never quite satisfied with the punishment.
Sadly, this is another case that involves a father and son. It’s a story about a father passing on his traditions, morals (or maybe I should say immorality), and his total lack of respect for not only laws, but also for animals on to his son. The poaching incident itself, occurred in April 2018; however, it has just recently gone viral due to the release of the poaching video. Yes, that’s right. There is a video showing the entire heinous act. But, no, this is not one of those cases where the poachers were stupid enough to record it themselves. This father and son duo, Andrew (41) and Owen (18) Renner thought they were committing the perfect crime. On the video footage that captured this horrendous slaying of a mama black bear and her two cubs, Owen Renner can be heard saying “They’ll never be able to link it to us, I don’t think”.
So, where did the video footage come from, then? Well, this mama and her two babies were being recorded by US Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. The mama cub was one of 20 sows that were being study for research on the bear population in the area. The incident happened on Esther Island in Prince William Sound. And, while in many areas of Alaska, it is legal to shoot a mama black bear that is with her cubs, it is not legal in Prince William Sound.
The video footage is all you need to know what happened. However, for those of you who do not want to watch the disturbing video, here is a quick recap of exactly what happened. Andrew and Owen Renner are seen approaching the bear’s den with guns in hand. There is snow on the ground, and both men are on skis; and for some crazy, unknown reason, the younger Renner has no shirt on and the elder also appears to be shirtless, but with a ski vest on. The footage goes on to show Andrew firing his rifle 2 times at the hibernating mother bear, killing her. You can at this point hear the two cubs shrieking before Andrew then shoots them point blank, also killing them.
Andrew then pulls the mama bear out of the den and the 2 men can be seen high-fiving each other before Owen then poses with the bear for trophy pictures. The poaching video ends with the Renners skinning out and butchering the bear. Then more footage shows the men returning two days later to cover up the scene of the crime. The 2 men appear to be looking for spent casings and end it all by placing the cubs in bags in order to haul them off and get rid of the evidence. So, there you have it. The father and son duo thought they were in the clear. Little did they know the whole thing had been recorded.
Now, let’s jump forward to the punishment. Andrew Renner, 41, was convicted on 8 counts and sentenced to 5 months in jail, with 2 of those suspended. He was also ordered to pay $20, 000 in fines, with $11,000 of that suspended, leaving him with $9,000. Items used in the poaching case, including a boat, truck, 2 rifles, 2 handguns, 2 i-phones, and the skis were all forfeited by Mr. Renner. All that sounds pretty good compared to some punishments I have seen in the past. But here is the part that disturbs me…Mr. Renner’s hunting license was only suspended for 10 years. Okay, I know 10 years is a long time. But, in my opinion an act this horrendous deserves a permanent loss of hunting privileges!
As for Owen Renner, 18 (however, only 17 at the time of the crime), well, he was convicted on a total of 4 counts and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, all of which were suspended. He was also ordered to perform community service and to take a hunter safety course. Owen Renner received a 2-year suspension of his hunting license. Because of his age, the fact that he was under the influence of his father, and the fact that he never actually pulled the trigger on any of the animals, I can only hope that he has learned a very valuable lesson from this. I also hope that his community service fits the crime. I would love to see him doing something for The Humane Society, Forestry Department, or Department of Game and Fish. This young man needs to learn to respect all animals, even those that he hunts.
Now, don’t get me wrong with that last statement, what Owen Renner did in this case was not hunting at all. Unfortunately, anti-hunters are not able to distinguish the difference between poaching and hunting. Acts like this end up giving true, legitimate hunters a bad reputation. My thoughts on this: Not all people are bad people, yet some commit murders and other crimes. Not all hunters are poachers, yet there are those who do it. So, just as all people cannot be linked into one category, neither can all hunters. It is time that we law-abiding hunters quit getting a bad rap because of a few bad apples.
Alright, you know the facts of the case. You know how I feel. Now, I want to know what you think. Does the punishment fit the crime? Do you think each of the Renner men got what they deserved? Was it too much, or not enough? Am I the only one who wants to see tougher punishments for poachers? Share your thoughts with me below, or as always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.