Federal judge sentences 4 Alaska men for 2015 walrus deaths

Apr 20, 2017

Four men have been sentenced to probation and restitution for shooting walruses on an Alaska beach, taking ivory tusks and leaving the meat to rot

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Four Alaska men who shot several walruses without keeping the meat and caused stampedes that killed about two dozen more animals have been sentenced to probation, restitution and community service.

Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that Adam Sage, Michael Tuzroyluk, Guy Tuzroyluk, and Jacob Lane also will be banned from hunting walrus for a year.

All four men are from Point Hope, a village on Alaska's northwest coast.

Walrus use sea ice as a platform for diving to reach clams and sea snails on the ocean floor. A lack of sea ice in recent years has forced walrus to instead rest on shore in late summer. An estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed in early September 2015 near Point Lay.

Grouped shoulder-to-shoulder, walrus can be crushed in stampedes if startled by an airplane, hunter or polar bear.

A few weeks later, a person connected to a remote Air Force radar station photographed more than two dozen dead walrus at Cape Lisburne, 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of the Bering Strait.

Only Alaska Natives who live in the state may hunt walrus. Walrus killed only for ivory is illegal.

Federal prosecutors in September charged the four Point Hope men with misdemeanors in the case. All were qualified to hunt marine mammals for subsistence purposes.

Prosecutors said the men made two hunting trips to Cape Lisburne, where up to 1,000 walruses were on shore. They shot several walruses and salvaged only the tusks.

Stampedes that followed the shootings killed or injured at least two dozen more walrus. About half were calves. Those animals also were left to rot.

Lane was sentenced Friday in Fairbanks and the other three were sentenced within the last month.

The Point Hope Native Village Council recommended terms of the men's three-year probation.

The men were ordered to pay $1,000 restitution for walrus conservation projects on national wildlife refuges. They were banned from hunting walrus for a year and ordered to hunt for subsistence needs of Point Hope elders during probation.

The men were ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and to publicly apologize to the village council and to Point Hope whaling captains.