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.