Fish and Wildlife Service investigates polar bear hunter

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into a possible case of illegal polar bear hunting near Point Hope earlier this month.

The agency was tipped off to the case Thursday when The Arctic Sounder, a newspaper that serves the North Slope and Northwest Alaska, published several photographs of hunter Ken Hamby during the May 12 hunt. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act only Alaska Natives who live in Alaska on the North Pacific or Arctic coasts may harvest polar bears. Hamby is not an Alaska Native.

''Somebody actually faxed a copy of the Arctic Sounder article to us,'' said Bruce Woods, spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage. ''We are aware of it and are looking into it.''

Woods said he could not comment further on specifics of the case because it is under investigation. Stan Pruszenski, assistant regional director for law enforcement said Fish and Wildlife agents were looking into the case.

It is illegal for anyone who is not Indian, Aleut or Eskimo to actively participate in any manner in hunting polar bears, according to a fact sheet on polar bear hunting prepared by the agency.

The five photographs published in The Arctic Sounder show Hamby hunting with 16-year-old Jacob Lane III. The photos include one of Hamby sharpening his knife and another skinning the animal.

In text accompanying the photos Hamby said he had checked with game wardens. He said it is legal for him to shoot polar bears because his wife is Native and because he will not permanently remove any part of the bear from the village.

''He says that he spoke to someone who told him it was OK. I don't know who that is. He was either misled or misunderstood,'' Woods said.

Hamby, who lives in Point Hope, could not be reached for comment. There is no phone listing for him.

The photographs were taken by Oakley Cochran, Kotzebue managing editor of The Arctic Sounder. Cochran said Hamby had no objections to her photographing the hunt.

''I told him I was with the newspaper. He said it was OK,'' Cochran said Friday.

In the text accompanying the photographs, Hamby said he planned to send the bear hide to Shishmaref for tanning and hoped his wife would make mukluks for him from the fur. Hamby also said that he would give most of the bear meat away because he already had polar bear meat from another person's recent hunt.

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