Two muskox have been poached near Bethel, and Alaska Wildlife Troopers are searching for whoever is responsible. The Troopers found the two animals near a snowmachine trail between the Bethel dump and Akiachak on Sunday.
The scene described by Troopers was one no hunter could condone:
“One muskox was dead and another appeared to be shot in the eye and other parts of its body. It was limping badly and couldn’t see because of the bullet wound to the eye, so it was kind of staggering around, kind of out of it," said Brett Gibbens, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper out of McGrath who is handling the case. “So the decision was made to put that second animal down since it was fatally wounded.”
Both muskox had been shot multiple times with small caliber firearms.
“Not large caliber rifles like you would normally use if you were going to target muskox, if you were going muskox hunting,” said Gibbens.
No meat had been salvaged from either muskox.
Several four-wheelers and one snowmachine were seen leaving the area by the person who discovered the animals. Troopers are seeking information regarding who’s responsible for the poaching. The Alaska Wildlife Safeguard Program is offering a cash reaward for information that leads to prosecuting the offenders.
“I know how it is in small communities, and people are sometimes hesitant to step forward with information," said Gibbens, "but they can do that anonymously through that program.”
Offenders could be charged with taking muskox in a closed area and failure to salvage edible meat.
Poaching animals that are part of a small population affects the whole herd. Gibbens says that illegal killings like these undercut the ability for the muskox herd to grow into a population the area could one day legally hunt.
“Basically, these satellite herds of muskox that move in from the coast come in and establish new territories," said Gibbens. "And the exciting thing about that is if they’re not poached, they could set up new herds and new territorial ranges and those herds could grow, possibly, to legally huntable populations.”
Troopers salvaged the meat from the two muskox and have donated it to charities in Bethel.
Anyone with information about this case can contact the Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 907-574-0491 or Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.