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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

8 Charged in Point Hope Caribou Slaughter

James Halpin / Anchorage Daily News / March 16, 2009

Eight people have been charged in connection with a caribou slaughter on the Arctic tundra near Point Hope last summer.
Documents filed in Kotzebue on Monday charge the residents, all of Point Hope, with killing upwards of 100 caribou from the massive Western Arctic Caribou Herd last July and leaving at least 37 of the animals from 25 kill sites to rot.

More could have been wasted, but it was impossible to tell because the carcasses had decomposed and been scavenged by the time Alaska Wildlife Troopers got on scene several weeks later, the charges say.

Charged with an assortment of crimes including wanton waste and failure to salvage meat are:

* Lazarus C. Killigvuk, 25

* Randy John Oktollik, 26

* Roy Oktollik, 18

* Brett Oktollik, 20

* Koomalook M. Stone, 18
* Chester W. Koonuk, 29
* Aqquilluk Hank, 30

* Roy A. Miller, 20

The animals were part of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, a massive group of about 377,000 animals that is a major subsistence food source in the Bush.

Troopers say it appeared word got out that the caribou were moving in and villagers rushed to the scene between July 4 and July 8 to conduct an otherwise legal harvest.

Troopers, responding to a report of wasted game, came across the carcasses scattered along a 40-mile trail about 25 miles east of Point Hope, apparently killed in early July. Even when troopers got to the scene weeks later, some still-nursing calves remained, trying to suckle milk from their decomposing mothers.

At the time, troopers called the killings "by far the worst case of blatant waste" they had ever seen.

Elders from the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Hope, however, countered that details of the killings had been exaggerated and that troopers were handling the case unprofessionally. They refused to cooperate in the investigation, instead appealing to the governor to be able to handle the matter internally -- a request that is apparently still pending.

On Monday, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said the case remains under investigation and that more people could be charged.

Andrew Peterson, an assistant attorney general at the state's Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, said the case could be tried in Kotzebue or Point Hope itself, although it was too early to know.

Point Hope is a community of 700 people about 330 miles southwest of Barrow.

Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.

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