The U.S. Department of Justice announced the sentences of three men that were caught leaving a popular viewing platform in 2018 to take pictures with brown bears that were feeding.
In a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the District of Alaska, 56-year-old David Engelman of Sandia Park, New Mexico was charged along with 54-year-old Ronald Engelman and 30-year-old Steven Thomas, both of King Salmon, Alaska. All three men were handed a $3,000 fine and one year of probation. Both Engelmans were given one week in prison, while Thomas was given 10 days in prison. All three men are also barred from entering a national park for one year.
All three men pleaded guilty to leaving the viewing platform at Brooks Falls, a notorious hot spot for brown bears feeding on salmon swimming upstream, and wading into the Brooks River, located in Katmai National Park, in August 2018. David Engelman was seen on a livestream camera taking selfies of himself with bears in the background.
The park has strict rules on where visitors can walk and view feeding bears, which spend each summer gorging themselves on salmon in preparation for winter hibernation. In sentencing the men, U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Scoble described their actions as “drunken capering, and a slap in the face to those who were there.”
Superintendent of Katmai National Park and Preserve Mark Sturm called the actions of the men “careless.”
“Brown bears are fierce, territorial predators, especially when concentrated in order to feed on migrating salmon,” Sturm said. “Things could have easily ended very badly.”
The $9,000 in fines handed out by Scoble will go to the Katmai Conservancy, a nonprofit that delivers funds to Katmai National Park.