Waste Not, Want Not

Article reference: Conservation 101, July 14, 2022 – Subsistence Hunting

I found your statement on subsistence hunting very confusing, specifically the statement, “subsistence hunters treat wildlife with respect, take only what is needed, waste no part of the animal and do not damage the land.”

Having spent 10 years working with subsistence hunters in northern Alaska as a Special Agent, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, I can assure you that many subsistence hunters in Alaska do not function under those guidelines!

I have witnessed the wasteful take of ducks, geese, whales, walrus, polar bears, caribou, and Salmon by Alaskan Natives under the pretense of subsistence and have prosecuted many of the poachers! When it comes to the “subsistence hunting” of walrus, I would venture to say 75% of the harvest is for ivory not meat! Spring harvest of waterfowl is as much for sport as meat. Polar bear harvest has absolutely nothing to do with meat! It is all about killing!

Is the meat utilized by the villages? Yes, when it is retrieved! The American public has NO idea how much of their wildlife resources are being poached by natives under the disguise of “subsistence hunting”!

In a perfect world, your statement would be correct, but the situation in Alaska is far from perfect. It is a rampant problem that is still occurring today, as many state and federal wildlife managers refuse to address the issue due to political complications.

Mark Webb
Webb’s Wildlife Consultants

Yeah, right—I’ve seen the natives back in with a pickup-truck load of salmon they could not sell and dump them back into river, dead. I guess that’s what we call “no waste.”

Brent Chapman

There are bad eggs everywhere, but in my experience most subsistence hunting is very well done. I made two trips in the past 12 months with subsistence hunters, where I spent eight or nine days with two different groups of Inuit in Canada, and in both cases they were true subsistence hunters who did not waste a thing. I went on a musk ox hunt with Inuit back in the spring, and I can tell you that was the cleanest skeleton I have ever seen anywhere in the world. When they left, they took every single scrap of meat and hide; I have never seen anything like it. That was subsistence hunting in its truest form.

[Name withheld by request]

Editor’s Note: We also have seen both sides of the subsistence hunting issue. In hindsight, we should have written, “Subsistence hunters should treat wildlife with respect, take only what is needed . . . .” See also Alaska’s Hunter Education study guide.

Conservation Frontlines welcomes signed, relevant letters to the editor. Verified names may be withheld upon request. Letters chosen for publication are edited for clarity and brevity.