ANCHORAGE (AP) -- About 30 percent more hunters have been caught in Western Alaska this year wasting the meat of game animals, Fish and Wildlife Protection troopers say.
By mid-October, troopers had issued 51 citations for failure to salvage all edible meat from moose, caribou, sheep and other game animals.
Troopers credited the ticketing increase to a special effort around Kotzebue aimed at hunters who, according to complaints troopers received last year, had been packing out caribou antlers before removing the meat from the field.
Two extra troopers and an extra airplane were stationed in Kotzebue to try to deal with the problem, said Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper Sgt. Charlie Yoder.
''People waste the meat for a bunch of different reasons,'' Yoder said. ''Some people don't know they are supposed to bring it out, some people are too lazy, and some just don't care. Also, inexperienced people often get too far away from camp. Packing all that meat out is sometimes more than they can physically handle.''
Wanton waste of big game meat is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.
According to state regulations, the meat of moose, caribou, sheep, mountain goats, wild reindeer, deer, elk, bison, musk oxen, spring black bears and small birds must be salvaged and removed from the field.
For big game animals, that means taking meat from the ribs, neck, brisket, front quarters, hindquarters and along the backbone. For birds, the breasts must be salvaged. The law also states that a hunter may not possess the horns or antlers of a big-game animal before salvaging and removing the meat.
Of the 51 citations issued this year, troopers said they wrote eight citations for wasting the entire animal and 29 for packing out the antlers before the meat.
Yoder said hunters forfeited 21 sets of antlers. Six hunters lost their hunting licenses, some for a year and others for 15 months. Most paid fines averaging between $1,000 and $1,500, he said.
No hunters went to jail.
The highest fine was $2,500, Yoder said. That was paid by Bradley Roark of Odon, Ind., who was hunting out of Dillingham and was cited for two counts of failing to salvage edible meat and one count of taking the antlers out first.
Roark also lost his license and the antlers.
Besides the citations issued, troopers investigated 10 wasted caribou out of Kotzebue and three wasted moose out of Holy Cross.
No hunters were caught in those cases.
Yoder said troopers likely catch only a small fraction of the violators.
Lee Staheli, who runs a small air charter service out of Kiana near Kotzebue, said he won't take hunters out in the field unless they bring back the meat.
''They have to bring the meat into the village. Then I give it away to the elders,'' he said. ''If I was doing anything like letting hunters waste meat, I'd get my butt run right out of the village.''
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