Man Kills Polar Bear in Front Yard, Allegedly Leaves Carcass to Rot for Months

An Alaska man is facing up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine after shooting a polar bear then leaving its carcass to rot in his front yard, prosecutors say.

Christopher Gordon, 35, of Kaktovik, was charged this week for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). He is accused of killing the animal in December last year and leaving its harvestable remains to waste outside his home until May 22, according to the Department of Justice.

An investigation, spearheaded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, found evidence that the polar bear had been attracted to the property after Gordon left butchered whale meat outside.

The animal was then shot and killed because it was "trying to eat the improperly stored whale meat," the Department of Justice alleged, noting the slaying had not been done in self-defense. Prosecutors said the carcass had been left for months, during which time it was covered in snow.

At one point, officials said a snow removal truck ripped off one of the bear's legs by colliding with its remains. According to a charging document, it is alleged the carcass was burned in a Kaktovik dump without being used for "subsistence" purposes. This is in violation of the rules set by the MMPA, which offers some legal concessions for harvesting and research.

The law says taking marine mammals cannot be done "in a wasteful manner."

According to the fisheries department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which helps to enforce the MMPA, the law was first passed in 1972 amid concerns that human activities were causing a significant decline in some species of marine mammals in the U.S.

Amendments to the law in 1994 brought exceptions to restrictions, letting Alaskans have greater access to collect "subsistence resources" and authorizing some scientific research.

"To protect all marine mammals, the MMPA prohibits the 'taking' of any marine mammal species in U.S. waters where 'take' means to hunt, harass, capture, or kill any marine mammal or attempting to do so. It also prohibits the import and export of marine mammals and their parts or products," the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service explains on its website.

Gordon was charged with one count of wasteful taking of a marine mammal. Federal officials said yesterday any sentence will be partially based on the suspect's existing criminal history. The Anchorage Daily News reported the man's arraignment hearing in court had been scheduled for 2 p.m. on August 15.

Prosecutors said the case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan D. Tansey and that the investigation remains ongoing. Last year, a polar bear death hit the headlines after the animal was shot dead for attacking a cruise ship guard during a tourist expedition in Norway. Research indicates the species is under threat as melting ice means it is facing difficulty accessing traditional food sources.

Polar Bear
Two-year-old polar bear Wolodja walks in his enclosure at Tiergarten Berlin zoo on August 23, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. A man in Alaska is now facing up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine after shooting a polar bear in violation of state law. Sean Gallup/Getty