ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Alaska State Troopers have charged the founder of Moose Mamas with Unsworn Falsification and Tampering with Public Records following an investigation into the shooting death of a bear last June.
Debernardi scans an empty pen at their new location on Wind Song Drive.
A trooper dispatch report outlining the charges revealed Dana Debernardi allegedly fabricated a story about the sequence of events that led to the death of the bear.
Moose Mamas changed location recently to provide more effective care. At the new facility, vacant straw beds paint an uncertain future for the program.
"I started this program to save baby moose. And to release them back into the wild," Debernardi said.
Debernardi says everything was going according to plan, until a determined bear broke into the pen after discovering an easy meal.
"He basically had me trapped down there between two dead calves and two rescued calves,” she said. “Unfortunately, I had to shoot him. I felt like my life was in danger. My interns' lives were in danger."
By state law, Debernardi had the right to defend her property. But the question isn't about motive, rather the truth of who actually pulled the trigger. State troopers say she fabricated this information on a black bear sealing certificate, claiming full responsibility on a defense of life or property form.
Debernardi argues it doesn't matter who actually pulled the trigger. As founder of Moose Mamas, she shoulders all executive decisions.
"I take full responsibility of this organization and things that happen in it,” she said. “And I want the calves to survive. That's my main objective."
Moose Mamas must have an AK Fish & Game-issued release permit to foster the animals with the intent of returning them to the wild. Permits are renewed annually, and Debernardi's expired in October last year. Fish & Game has yet to renew it based on recent allegations.
"We're at this point holding on to see what becomes of the charges,” Alaska Department of Fish & Game Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale said. “We're somewhat hesitant due to the nature of the charges to issue the permit."
Shortly after Channel 2 spoke with Fish & Game, Debernardi received a call from them.
"It broke my heart,” she said. “Then, I get a call saying 'yeah, we'll reissue the permits as long as you resign.”
Debernardi is hesitant to agree to those terms -- terms which we weren't able to verify with Fish and Game.
"It's not about me,” she said. “It's about the program and keeping this going. So whatever I have to do."
Debernardi's arraignment is scheduled for June 29th in the District Court at Anchorage in the Nesbett Courthouse. According to troopers, the charges she is facing are misdemeanors.
Moose Mamas currently has four interns who drove from New Jersey to Anchorage to help in the cause -- with nothing to do but wait.
"Seven days and 13 hours it took us to get here,” Moose Mama intern Taylor Ruck said. “We have a beautiful pen, a new area. And no moose. So where's the moose?"