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Alaska Native Jailed for Walrus Poaching

July 13, 2005

Anchorage, Alaska - Alaska Native Herman A. Oyagak was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for killing six walruses. Oyagak was on probation for felony assault when he participated in the wasteful killing of walruses in 2003.

Frequently, such illegal items end up at Anchorage gift shops, said Steve Oberholtzer, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. A bull walrus head mount just the tusks and nose plate mounted on a piece of wood can sell for $3,000 or more, he said.

Oberholtzer said the arrests in the walrus killings came from information supplied by outraged villagers. The walrus were killed and had their heads removed to sell the ivory, and the carcasses were sunk.

Under federal law, it is legal for Alaska Natives to hunt walruses for subsistence but they must use a substantial portion of the animal. In this case, the walruses were being killed for the ivory and bodies were discarded.

A co-defendant in the case, Samuel Akpik, also of Barrow, was sentenced to two months in federal prison, two months of home confinement and a $500 fine.

Oyagak's criminal history led to the harsh sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Goeke said Tuesday.



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