POLL: Should the slaughter of walrus in Alaska be stopped?

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Federal agents are investigating a report this week of dozens of walruses being shot and killed, apparently for their ivory, along the coast of the Chukchi Sea in a Northwest Alaska refuge.

Andrea Medeiros, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska regional office, said law enforcement agents with the service received a Wednesday email — with attached photos — saying dozens of walruses had been killed near Cape Lisburne, about 50 miles north of Point Hope in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

“The report stated that there were about 25 walruses killed, including about 12 babies,” Medeiros said. “They were reporting that these animals had been shot, and their heads had been taken.”

Medeiros said agents had departed Anchorage en route to the site Wednesday, but their arrival at Cape Lisburne was delayed until Thursday by poor weather.

“Time is of the essence in a case like this,” Medeiros said. “You have to get out there and look at the animals, because you have animals that can feed on these carcasses and crime scenes can be damaged by natural feeding.”

Under federal law, anyone can legally take the ivory from a walrus found dead on a beach, but walruses can only be legally killed by Alaska Natives — and only if their meat is fully harvested, a rule intended to prevent the practice of what guidelines call “head-hunting” like that in the alleged slaughter.

“That would be an illegal take for Alaska Natives,” Medeiros said. “To take walrus legally, it has to be non wasteful take — they can’t just kill an animal for the ivory, and of course non-Natives are not allowed to take walruses.”

A tip emailed Wednesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reporting an illegal kill of about two dozen walrus near Cape Lisburne in Northwest Alaska, included this photo of the scene. Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The agents at Cape Lisburne hadn’t yet reported discovering the scene of the slaughter reported in the email, but Medeiros said they were still working on the case Friday.

“We’ll hopefully be able to figure out what is going on here,” Medeiros said.

Tommie Baker, community relations chief at the Alaskan Command Public Affairs Office, said Fish and Wildlife officials will stay at Cape Lisburne Air Force Station as the investigation into the walrus deaths continues.

Baker said ARCTEC Alaska employees work rotations at Cape Lisburne and about six people live there at a time. ARCTEC is contracted bythe U.S. Air Force to manage and maintain the Alaska Radar System.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has asked anyone who suspects a violation of federal law involving migratory birds, marine mammals, endangered species, or wildlife smuggling to report it immediately to its Alaska law enforcement officeat907-786-3311or1-800-224-8231after business hours. The office can also be reached by email [email protected]

This article was first published by Alaska Dispatch News on 18 Sep 2015.

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Mark McCandlish

I find it heartening that the Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating this event as a criminal act. I hope they find and fully prosecute those responsible.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

ALL slaughter should come to an abrupt end before all life as we know it, does

Paula Rock

The willful slaughter of any animal is wrong no matter what the reason is. They were not put on this earth for man to do as they please with. When is enough- enough. When there are no more walruses, elephants, whales, dolphins, wolves wild horses—–where does it end and when will it stop. Extinct is forever.

Michele Jankelow

This is absolutely appalling!

Leigh Lofgren

It was only a matter of time before they moved to the walrus for the ivory and this must be stopped. I am so sick of the constant slaughter of our wildlife and it's sickening.

Susan McGraw Keber

This is no different than the poachers who kill elephants and rhinos. Of course this should be illegal. Reported today was a massacre of more than a dozen elephants by poison for their tusks in the same park as Cecil was killed.

Simon Tucker

Another no brainer vote – but who are these barbarians killing walrus for their tusks? If ti was up to me I would crush every bit of ivory, no matter how old, and make possession of any ivory a criminal offence with a mandatory jail sentence associated with it.