With big haul-outs previously reported, it was bound to spark problems, so now officials investigate 25 walruses shot on Alaska’s shore where the animals were found bullet-ridden and some of them even headless.
- Around 25 walruses were reported dead, with 12 of them being babies
- All were shot, and several of them were headless
- Walrus hunting is legal only to Alaskan natives, provided they take the ivory and the meat as well
- A walrus skull is a highly valuable collector’s item
Within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge off coast of the Chuchki Sea, dozens of walruses were found dead, likely taken down for their ivory that is commonly found in jewelry and now highly valuable for sale. The dead bodies were photographed near Cape Lisburne, and officials were promptly announced in order to arrive at the scene to investigate.
According to Andrea Madeiros, the spokeswoman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional office in Alaska, there were around 25 walrus carcasses strewn about the beach, with 12 of them babies. All the animals had been shot, and several them were missing their heads by the time they arrived at the scene, 50 miles north of Point Hope.
The matter is still undergoing investigation and officials have stated that they do not encourage jumping to conclusions about illegal head-hunting that caused the deaths of the marine animals, but the circumstances are troubling.
Under federal law, anyone walking down the beach can take the ivory from a dead walrus, but the bullets certainly speak to the fact that they did obviously not perish from natural causes. Hunting and killing walruses is also not illegal, but only to Alaskan natives who live in the state, and under the condition that their meat will also be fully harvested, in order to prevent wasteful deaths.
However, the bodies did remain intact, with only the heads of several of them removed, along with tusks, all of which are considered targets for illegal “head-hunting”. Walrus skulls are collector’s items, and highly valuable.
According to Gus Gillespie of Alaska Fur Exchange, who has been selling and dealing in walrus ivory since 1986, a male walrus tusk in good condition can be sold for $1,800. They can only be sold by natives and in the form of handicrafts.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were able to arrive at the scene quickly, before the bodies were scavenged by polar bears or seagulls, after receiving reports a few weeks ago when “someone suspected there had been illegal take”, according to Madeiros. However, that particular case turned out to be false, and the walruses died of natural causes.
The most recent case though, will certainly turn out with a different conclusion, but officials are not confirming an illegal activity just yet.
Image source: alaskapublic.org