Polar bear hunter says he shot in self-defense

Posted: Friday, June 01, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- A non-Native hunter who shot a polar bear near Point Hope last month said he did so in self-defense.

Ken Hamby told the Arctic Sounder, a newspaper that serves the North Slope and Northwest Alaska, that he shot the polar bear for self-protection when the bear approached within 70 yards of him and a young hunter as they were on the ice outside Point Hope.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the incident. 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 agency was tipped off to the case when The Arctic Sounder last month published several photographs of Hamby during the May 12 incident.

Federal officials had little comment last week other than to acknowledge that someone had sent them the paper.

The five photographs showed Hamby with 16-year-old Jacob Lane III, and include one of Hamby sharpening his knife and another skinning the animal.

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

Federal officials said Hamby was either misled or misunderstood.

In Thursday's edition of newspaper, Hamby said the bear was heading straight for him and his companion.

''We didn't have anywhere to go,'' Hamby said. ''The kid I was with was 16 years old. He had shot at a bear earlier and missed, so when it got within 60 or 70 yards, I shot the bear.''

Hamby told the newspaper he knew he could not legally hunt a polar bear but that he had been told by a local wildlife officials that he could defend himself.

Hamby said he was not hunting when he shot the bear, but was on the ice just looking around.

After shooting the bear, Hamby contacted a local wildlife officer, who measured the skull and extracted a tooth, as required by federal law.

''All of the meat is gone,'' Hamby said. ''I gave it out to the elders and people in the village who wanted it. I still have the hide, or my mother-in-law does, and I will turn it over to the feds if they want it.''

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