Officials investigate suspected poaching after walrus deaths in Bristol Bay

Several hundred walrus lie on a dark gray beach
Walrus on the beaches near Port Heiden. April, 2018. (Credit John Christianson)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information about the illegal killing of walruses in the Bristol Bay region. More than a dozen walruses have been found either wounded or dead between Pilot Point and Nelson Lagoon. 

Those deaths are suspicious, according to Andrea Medeiros, public affairs specialist for USFWS. In an email, she said that reports from citizens and observations by both state and federal authorities claim puncture wounds on dead animals are consistent with bullet wounds. 

Walrus huddles range across the Bering Sea and spend significant amounts of time in the water, so populations are difficult to estimate. That lack of an accurate count prevents USFWS from granting endangered species protections to the Pacific walrus. But the semi-aquatic tetrapods are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and only qualified Alaska Natives can legally hunt walruses for subsistence purposes. Violations of this statute can result in fines of up to $20,000 for each person involved, as well as up to one year in federal prison. 

People who have information related to this investigation or other suspected poaching can call (907) 786-3977.

Contact the author at or 907-842-2200

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