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Fish & Wildlife looking for poacher of black bear shot near Skilak Lake

Skilak Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Riley Board
Skilak Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Federal Fish & Wildlife Service law enforcement officials are looking for the person they say illegally shot and took a black bear in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge last week.

Federal Wildlife Officer Pete Harvey is handling the case. He said last Tuesday, he got a call from a highway flagger about a maroon hatchback driving with a dead black bear in the trunk. The caller said the driver was male, and the incident happened near the east entrance to Skilak Loop, near Jim’s Landing and the Lower Kenai River Trail.

“I got out there on the 10th with my canine, was able to locate the kill site, as well as remnants of a gut pile and a little bit more evidence,” Harvey said.

Based on eyewitness accounts and evidence, he believes the bear was shot from the road, gutted, loaded into a vehicle and taken from the area.

Hunting for bears is illegal in the Skilak Recreation Area because of the high concentration of hiking trails and campgrounds. Most of the rest of the refuge is open for black bear hunting, except the area near the refuge headquarters in Soldotna. Some times of year, it’s legal to hunt for small game in the Skilak Recreation Area.

“There are big brown signs posted at the west and east entrance, letting folks know when it’s open,” he said.

Harvey said evidence at the site of the black bear shooting suggests the poaching was opportunistic, because it happened in an area where bears have little fear of people and commonly approach vehicles. He said he’s currently contacting taxidermists to see if anyone has shown up with a bear matching the witnesses’ descriptions.

If anyone has information about the incident, they can contact Fish and Wildlife Officer Pete Harvey at (907) 260-2854. All reports are confidential.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.