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Alaskan Native gets prison for walrus kills

7/14/2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska Native was sentenced to a harsh seven years in federal prison for killing six walruses, removing the heads to sell the ivory and sinking the carcasses.

Herman A. Oyagak was on probation for felony assault when he participated in what prosecutors declared a wasteful killing of walruses in 2003. That, plus his criminal history, led to the harsh sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Goeke said Tuesday.

Under federal law, Alaska Natives are allowed 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 abandoned, Goeke said.

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

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.