A man from the coastal village of Brevig Mission is accused of killing 14 walruses and wasting the harvest, according to charges filed Thursday in federal court.
Edward Barr, 33, said in a phone interview that he was being blamed for waste that other hunters had left behind.
Barr was allowed to hunt marine mammals for subsistence and Alaska Native craftwork in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, prosecutors say. But the federal law says that people cannot harvest the animals in a "wasteful manner," meaning a substantial portion of the animal is left behind.
Charges filed in U.S. District Court say that Barr and several others were on an ice floe in the Bering Sea on May 7, 2016, when Barr killed eight adult North Pacific walruses and six calves, removed the heads of the five of the animals, and left "the harvestable remainder" of the 14 walruses "on the beach to waste."
Barr said that he does not believe all the walrus kills being attributed to him were actually his. Others were out hunting walrus at that time, too, he said. Another hunter had cut his hand while harvesting walrus and had to seek medical care in Nome, leaving his kills behind, Barr said.
Barr said he had left one or two walrus on the sea ice around that time, because the ice was closing in on his hunting group, and they decided to head home for their own safety.
"I might be getting blamed for it, but I'm just taking it as a man," Barr said. Barr said he does not intend to fight the charges.
If convicted, Barr faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000, prosecutors said.
In an unrelated incident, four men from Point Hope were sentenced last year to illegally taking walrus in 2015. As part of their plea agreement, the men's sentence included hunting on behalf of Point Hope elders and cleaning whaling equipment.