ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A man featured in a recent Animal Planet series about his life among wild grizzly and black bears at his Alaska cabin has been charged with illegally feeding them dog food and cookies.
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Charles E. Vandergaw’s close association with bears previously concerned wildlife authorities, and citations have been issued. Game officials consider feeding bears a danger to humans, especially if others duplicate the behavior.
The 20 misdemeanor counts filed Friday in Palmer against Vandergaw, 70, allege he illegally fed bears from May through September 2008 at the camp he calls “Bear Haven.” The property owned by the retired Anchorage teacher and wrestling coach is about 40 miles north of the city.
Animal Planet’s six-part series “Stranger Among Bears,” which aired in April and early May, focused on the 20 years he has lived at the isolated cabin and interacted with the bears.
“The satiated bears succumb to Charlie’s affections, often taking walks with him, allowing him to pet them and even sit astride them,” according to the Animal Planet Web site. A message left with a show spokeswoman late Tuesday was not immediately returned.
According to information filed with the charges, Alaska State Troopers executed a search warrant at the property Sept. 26, and Vandergaw acknowledged to the investigators that he had been feeding bears for 20 years but said he could not immediately stop.
A call left with Vandergaw’s attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday.
According to prosecutors, Vandergaw initially obtained a bear baiting permit to justify possession of the dog food but didn’t put the food at the appropriate distance from his cabin.
Troopers found 1,040 pounds of dog food on the property but no dogs. Prosecutors also filed related charges against a Vandergaw associate and a licensed big game guide, who prosecutors say also bought dog food and flew it to the cabin.
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