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Theresa Vail Pleads Guilty to Illegal Alaskan Brown Bear Kill


Miss America contestant will face probation and fines in illegal bear kill.

Reality TV star and former Miss America contestant Theresa Vail has pled guilty to the illegal killing of a brown bear in Alaska in May 2015.

The Alaskan Dispatch reports Vail pled guilty last Wednesday to a misdemeanor by phone in Aniak District Court. The charge was for taking a brown bear without a tag. A second charge for falsifying image on a tag was dropped in the case. Vail will face a $750 fine, and if they are also convicted, will have to split a $1,300 restitution cost for the bear. She will also have a year of probation.

The 25-year-old was in Alaska hunting for brown bear with Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures when the illegal hunt occurred on May 26. She had a single, $500 out-of-state tag for a brown bear. Vail shot a male brown bear that didn’t immediately go down.

Her guides urged her to put another round in the bear. But, apparently unknown to the guides and Vail, a second brown bear, a sow, was in the area. She ended up shooting and killing that bear as well.

The entire hunt was filmed for her TV show on the Outdoor Channel, but the hunt never aired. Officials did review the footage in the course of their investigation. It appears their problem wasn’t so much with the shooting, but how Vail and her guides acted in the wake of it.

Rather than reporting the mistake to proper authorities, the master guide in the case, Michael Renfro, instead delivered a second bear tag via airplane to the hunting group. Renfro’s attorney says the guide was attempting to protect Vail’s reputation.

“He didn’t want to embarrass her or her TV show,” attorney Myron Angstman said. “He thought it might ruin her career.”

But Vail’s lawyer said she felt guilty after filling the tag with false information, and along with her crew, decided to come clean. “A few days later, the film crew and I reported the incident and have since fully cooperated with the proper authorities,” Vail said.

Magistrate Judge John McConnaughy acknowledged that honest mistakes do sometimes happen. But Vail and her crew’s confessions apparently came a bit too late for that.

The Alaskan Dispatch reports the poor decision may even end up costing Renfro his guide business as he faces three misdemeanors in the incident. “We do take guides engaging in this type of activity seriously,” prosecuter Aaron Peterson said. “We take guided clients covering up these kinds of things seriously as well.”

It is possible Vail will have to go back to Alaska to testify against Renfro and guide Joseph Miller in the future.

In the meantime, while Vail’s “Limitless with Theresa Vail” show is no longer airing on Outdoor Channel, she is hosting “NRA All Access.” It’s not immediately clear how the pleas may affect her work with the channel.

Vail admitted her guilt in a Facebook post that was later taken down, but has only lightly touched on the subject since then. “I want to say thank you to each and every one of you that supported me through the PR nightmare that ensued a couple weeks ago,” Vail wrote on December 25. God has blessed me with peace in whatever comes of it.”

Apparently she’s also seen some internet hate since details of the incident first surfaced because she wrapped up her post by writing: “I’ve survived much worse than the nasty, belittling comments that you so heroically post behind the comfort of your computer screens.”


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Theresa Vail Pleads Guilty to Illegal Alaskan Brown Bear Kill