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Alaska charges Bear Haven's Vandergaw with illegal game feeding

After 20 years of enticing bears into a remote compound tucked away in a little visited corner of the Yentna River valley, retired Anchorage school teacher Charlie Vandergaw said last fall he was ready to end his bear-taming shenanigans.

Filmmaker Richard Terry, the man to whom Vandergaw made the statement, didn't know whether to believe it.

Now skeptical state officials have taken action to make sure it happens. They have charged the 70-year-old Vandergaw with 20 counts of illegally feeding game. Also charged were two friends accused of assisting him.

The criminal misdemeanor charges, filed by the state Department of Law on Friday in Palmer, cover bear feedings from May 10 to Sept. 19 last year at "Bear Haven," Vandergaw's remote summer home north of the community of Alexander Creek.

Charging documents, however, note the bear feeding there has been going on for far longer than a year. In interviews with Alaska State Troopers last fall, those documents say, "Vandergaw acknowledged that he was feeding the bears at his cabin and stated that he couldn't immediately stop. Vandergaw admitted to feeding the bears for the past 20 years."

By this time most years, Vandergaw would again be out at Bear Haven putting out dog food for the bears that are like family to him, but not this year. The state seized his single-engine Bush plane after serving the search warrants in September. They have been holding it ever since, making travel to the compound more difficult and costly for Vandergaw.

And among the charges filed Friday was a warning shot for anyone who might choose to help Vandergaw with his bears.

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