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A moose was poached in St. Mary’s and the meat wasn’t harvested

A moose poached and left unharvested next to the St. Mary's airport.
Sunni Bean
A poached moose left unharvested next to the St. Mary's airport.

On May 24 in St. Mary’s, a dead moose was found on airport property on the side of the road. It had been illegally shot out of hunting season and left there.

Two construction workers found the young moose just after 11 a.m. Arnold Amadon was driving by too, and stopped by not long after to check it out.

“We were earlier up the end of the airport in St. Mary's,” Amadon said. “Somebody poached a moose and left it laying there. Shot one right off the end of the runway.”

Residents weren’t happy about it.

“That pisses me off. Like, you know, if you're gonna shoot it, eat it, you know?“ Amadon said.

All that good meat right there, others said, they should at least have brought it home.

Residents drove over to the Alaska State Troopers office. The trooper on duty was flying out that day, but said that he’d pass it on to the officer who was coming to replace him. The trooper assisted in rolling the body over, revealing a gunshot wound to the neck. The carcass was still warm, so people wanted it harvested, but it was warm out too.

“It was still kind of warm. So they got somebody going up to skin it,” said Amadon. Others said they needed to give the meat to the Elders.

But as the afternoon went on, the moose carcass remained next to the road. All the while, residents stopped by and took a look. Amadon came back to check on it a few times too.

“There’s probably a bear within a quarter mile,” Amadon warned.

Because of the proximity to the airport, residents were afraid that it would attract animal activity as it began to decay. There were bears spotted at the dump, and birds, a well known aviation hazard, were starting to circle it.

“That's one of the big reasons why they wanted it moved was even if it was not on the runway itself,” said John Perreault, the public information officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation. “It could still attract the bears or birds over and that can cause problems for active runway or runway activities.”

Perreault said that they talked to the troopers since it was on airport property. In the end, the airport staff used a loader to take it to the St. Mary’s dump.

“What I heard from airport staff was there's a general sense of unhappiness that this happened,” Perreault said. “And that is they were trying to find somebody to take the meat or who could process it.”

By the time a resident went to butcher it it was souring, so salvage efforts went nowhere. Patrick Jones, the area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said yes, sometimes people illegally poach meat, and sometimes they accidentally shoot the wrong animal during hunting season and self-report. He said that leaving the moose there was not normal.

“That's super uncommon. Normally meat is valued very highly in rural Alaska. So the fact that somebody would leave it, leave it there, is extremely grievous,” Jones said.

While residents traditionally hunt moose as part of a subsistence lifestyle, in recent years subsistence fishing in the area has been highly restricted due to low salmon runs.

If the moose poacher is caught, they can be fined or jailed.

Sunni is a reporter and radio lover. Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and having a good conversation.