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Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Seven men are charged in the illegal shooting or possession of musk oxen or moose in Southwest Alaska.

Alaska State Troopers said five men from Hooper Bay and one from Chevak were charged with killing musk oxen. Another Hooper Bay man was charged with possession of game meat he knew was illegally taken.

They were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.

Charges against other hunters are pending.

"They were not responsible for all the musk oxen that were taken," said trooper Sgt. Matt Dobson at the Bethel post. Troopers have conducted interviews and are waiting for results from the state crime lab before issuing additional citations, he said.

The charges stem from an investigation in April that showed that as many as 12 musk oxen and one moose were killed illegally about 50 miles northwest of Bethel in an area commonly known as the Mud Volcanoes, a cluster of extinct volcanoes and cinder cones.

Troopers said the initial complaints were received through a Wildlife Safeguard report at about the same time that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilots from Bethel found several kills.

The men will be arraigned in the Chevak District Court.

Norman G. Joe, 51, of Chevak was charged with one count of taking a musk ox during a closed season and one count of unlawful possession and transportation of illegally taken game.

Albert R. Simon, 34, Ephrem J. Smith, 27, and Paul F. Prince, 23, all of Hooper Bay, were charged with shooting musk oxen during a closed season, possessing and transporting illegally taken game and using a small caliber rifle, a .22, to shoot big game. Simon and Prince also were charged with shooting an out-of-season moose.

George J. Nanok, 51, of Hooper Bay was charged with shooting two musk oxen on separate dates, unlawful possession and transportation and using a small caliber rifle.

Patrick A. Hale, 38, of Hooper Bay was charged with one count of killing a musk ox and unlawful possession and transportation.

Julius Bell, 29, of Hooper Bay was charged possessing game meat that he knew was illegally taken.

The charges followed an investigation that showed that Bell knowingly took possession of moose and musk ox meat that he knew had been taken during a closed season, troopers said.

Roger Seavoy of Bethel, who manages hunting in the region for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told the Anchorage Daily News last month that the poached musk oxen were a splinter group from Nelson Island.

Area residents had hoped the mainland musk oxen would flourish and support a legal hunt, Seavoy said.

When Seavoy flew over the area last summer, he counted 29 animals, including seven calves. Seavoy said the poaching probably would delay growth in the herd that could have resulted in a legal hunt.

Hooper Bay is a community of more than 1,100 people on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta about 530 miles east of Anchorage. Chevak, with about 900 residents, is on the north bank of the Niglikfak River 17 miles east of Hooper Bay.

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