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Michigan hunters fined, ordered to apologize for illegal bear kill in Arctic refuge

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 4:23 pm | Updated: 5:58 pm, Tue Nov 26, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A Michigan woman who received a prestigious award from an international hunting organization for killing a grizzly bear in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge four years ago was sentenced in federal court in Fairbanks on Monday for illegally killing the bear.

Charlotte M. Peyerk, 66, of Shelby Township, Mich., was ordered to pay $25,000 in fines and write an apology to Safari Club International for submitting a fraudulent entry of the illegally taken bear. Her son, Mark A. Peyerk, 40, of Mio, Michigan, was ordered to pay a $30,000 fine for his role in the 2009 hunt in which Charlotte Peyerk shot a grizzly bear the day before the season opening. Mark Peyerk must also write a letter of apology to the Safari Club as part of the sentence imposed by Magistrate Judge Scott Oravec of the U.S. District Court in Fairbanks.

The Peyerks are two of several out-of-state hunters who have been convicted as a result of a larger investigation that led to the conviction of master guide Joe Hendricks, of Anchorage, owner of Fair Chase Hunts. Hendricks was ordered to pay a $125,000 fine a little more than a year ago for a plethora of illegal guiding activities in ANWR that involved guides, assistant guides and hunters. Since then, nearly a dozen guides who worked for Hendricks and hunters who paid him thousands of dollars to hunt grizzly bear and Dall sheep have been convicted of illegal hunting.

In one case, Hendricks admitted to breaking the horns on an undersized sheep to make it appear the sheep was a legal kill. In another instance, Hendricks admitted leasing his exclusive guiding areas to another guide, which is illegal.

In the case of the Peyerks, the two hunters admitted that they and their assistant guides agreed they should take the bear Charlotte Peyerk shot the day before the season opened, according assistant to U.S. Attorney Stephen Cooper, who prosecuted the case. The Peyerks' cameras had the date indicator altered to make it appear the bear was killed on opening day, Cooper said.

The Peyerks also falsified the date of the kill on a state harvest tag and on a Safari Club International trophy entry form, Cooper said.

As a result of the entry to the Safari Club, Charlotte Peyerk was awarded the club's Diana Award, according to a news release issued by the Department of Justice in Anchorage on Tuesday. The judge ordered Charlotte Peyerk to offer to return the award to Safari Club International as part of her sentence.

According to the Safari Club website, the Diana Award "honors the female hunter." 

"Named for the huntress of Roman mythology, it recognizes the women of SCI who have excelled in international big game hunting. Nominees will have shown exemplary ethics in the field, remained committed to the mission statement of SCI and have personally given of their time and energies to enhance wildlife conservation and education," according to the award description.

Charlotte Peyerk is listed on the website as the 2010 recipient. She is also listed as vice chairwoman of the award selection committee.

Both Peyerks were ordered to pay a $20,000 fine, while Mark Peyerk was ordered to pay $10,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Charlotte Peyerk was ordered to pay $5,000 to the same organization.

As part of the sentence, Mark Peyerk is prohibited from hunting during his five-year probation, and Charlotte Peyerk cannot hunt during her four-year probation.

In imposing his sentence, Oravec said that the Peyerks' attempt to cover up the illegal kill by altering the date indicator on their cameras was more egregious than shooting the bear before the season opened.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.

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