Opinion: Wasteful hunting shocks Alaskans

"Recently, many Alaskans were shocked and appalled to see front page pictures of caribou calves trying to suckle from their dead mothers near Point Hope and Kivalina, where vandals who live nearby apparently shot and left at least 160 caribou.

The last time this kind of large scale wasteful killing of caribou came to the public's attention was during the winter of 1976-77. At least a thousand wasted caribou were documented in one survey around Ambler, Shungnak, Kiana, Noorvik, Selawik, Kivalina, Kotzebue and Point Hope. Hundreds more wasted caribou were found the next year around Ambler. I was there, and I saw it and photographed it firsthand and so did many other people.

At that time it was a serious biological concern because the western arctic caribou herd had declined to about 75,000 and the existing harvest of 20,000 to 25,000 caribou a year was unsustainable.

It was not the only wasteful hunting during the 1970s, however. There were road-crossing slaughters of caribou on the Taylor and Denali highways as well. In rural Alaska, wasteful hunting practices in areas where caribou are abundant have been a chronic problem that has largely remained out of the public eye.

Wasteful hunting seems to reflect an unfortunate but basic animal trait that is not limited to humans.When resources are abundant, they are often wasted."

Get the Story:
Patrick Valkenburg: Elder supervision, hunter education could prevent carnage (The Anchorage Daily News 8/10)
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Related Stories:
Native village wants to handle caribou waste case (8/6)
More than 60 caribou carcasses discarded in Alaska (7/30)

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