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Chris Andrews, the supervisory wildlife inspector with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, worries about the prospect of intensified poaching in the region. These, she says, include stripping refuge managers and others of their law enforcement capabilities while simultaneously repealing rules and deregulating hunting. In Alaska such rules had prohibited the shooting of wolves and pups and hibernating bears and their cubs in their dens, using dogs and bait to hunt bears, and killing swimming caribou from motorboats.
Their majestic, curling horns are part of the allure; the older the sheep, the fuller the curl, and hunters must be able to judge whether an animal is old enough to be taken.
The curling horns of mature Dall sheep rams, like this one in the Yukon, draw trophy hunters. Adept at scaling rugged terrain, the animals are challenging to track and kill. On both sides of the border, trophy hunters are permitted to kill one Dall sheep a year. To maximize their kill chances, some hunters target more than one sheep, which is illegal. Even more egregious is "flock shooting"—hunters indiscriminately mowing down caribou when they are migrating in large herds. Stark describes a case near the U. Elias National Park and Preserve. Ptarmigan Lake Lodge was built before the area came under federal protection, in In , anonymous letters sent to Alaska Wildlife Troopers by someone who participated in hunts at the lodge alerted them to alleged illegal hunting.
Stark and his team reviewed related social media posts exposing the extent of those activities. He then flew to the lodge the only way to reach it to serve warrants, search the property, and conduct interviews. People from outside Alaska must be accompanied by guides when hunting Dall sheep, brown bears, and mountain goats. Over the past nine years, there have been more than 1, seizures of internationally protected wildlife at the U.
The top 20 animal groups seized most often range from endemic bears and lynx to the more exotic elephants and primates. They were also required to pay for public service announcements about the importance of adhering to hunting laws and were prohibited from hunting during a five-year probation period. Tip-offs help law enforcement, Stark says, adding that vanity also plays a part. As Barker crouched down to tie his shoe, he spotted a rock with the lichen pattern he was searching for.
It matched the rock in a photograph. Barker had been tipped off by someone who saw the photograph online of one of the hunters with a ram; the caption described the kill site as in northern British Columbia. The discerning observer recognized that the mountain backdrop was actually in the Yukon. They achieved this with the help of a retired animal health coordinator—Philip Merchant—who during 30 years of inspecting and aging at least 5, wild sheep designed the standard measuring device for assessing full-curl sheep horns.
In May a territorial court judge banned the two men from hunting in the Yukon for five years.
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She also sentenced them each to pay 7, Canadian dollars in fines and ordered them to forfeit their ram trophies. The DNA helps pinpoint the source population of an illegally hunted animal. A DNA repository is also being assembled for bears, and Barker has already concluded one prosecution as part of Operation Bruin, a three-year, cross-border, multiagency investigation that drew on DNA evidence.
Bruin showed that Ronald Martin, a resident of Haines, Alaska, had used his First Nation subsistence harvesting rights to guide hunts in Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Yukon, with clients including Americans who had no such rights. The DNA from a bear killed on one such hunt he led established that the animal, whose hide was exported out of the Yukon, had been killed in Kluane.
The investigation exposed Martin as the head guide of an international trophy smuggling ring involving 15 hunters from Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, and Utah. Martin and the hunters falsified names of kill sites, including where they took brown and black bears, during at least an eight-year period. Wildlife officers in the far north contend not only with crimes perpetrated there but also with an increasing number of illegal shipments in transit.
With their detection dog, Dock, they check vehicles at U.
This foot stool made out of a black rhinoceros foot was sent to an undercover agent in Alaska by a scientist later implicated in illegal wildlife trade. It is stored in a U. Fish and Wildlife Service warehouse in Anchorage.
Early on a Saturday morning in March , at the warehouse of one international cargo carrier, I watched as Andrews, Hornbaker, and Dock inspected goods in transit from Latin America to Asia. They were equipped with Narcan for themselves and Dock in the case of an opioid overdose if parcels they opened contained fentanyl. Hundreds of boxes of all shapes and sizes streamed by on a conveyor belt.
Suddenly Dock pounced on a large plastic-covered cardboard carton.
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Andrews took it off the belt and carefully cut it open, releasing a powerful, briny odor. The package—on its way from Mexico to Hong Kong—was stuffed full of dried shark fins. Andrews painstakingly examined the fins and eventually found a match with the pictures in his species identification guide. We got there by the Whitehall train out of Skagway, then by bus from Fraser. We have fond memories of the whole trip getting there and walking on the suspension bridge.
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We arrived in Skagway by cruise ship, and traveled to the suspension bridge as part of an excursion we signed up for. Yukon Suspension Bridge Highlights Impressive views over the white-water rapids of the Tutshi River Experience the dramatic journey across the bridge Sway 65 feet above the rapids below Cliffside Restaurant — Savour the taste of Canada Wildlife Sightings Learn about the history of the area in our outdoor museum Take home authentic First Nation and Yukon Art and souvenirs Two countries, 1 trip.
Come Visit Us! Cliff Side Restaurant. Galleries Beyond Expectations. Finding it among the trees is like coming upon some ancient Inca temple: ft long, as tall as the spruce, with accommodation for 85 first-class passengers. Her hull splintered, the floorboards fallen through, the names of lovers scratched into her boiler. I walk along the upper decks, peering into cabins. It is at Shipyard Island, two weeks into the journey, that I finally join what is, by common consensus, the main stem of the Yukon River. Flowing from Whitehorse, it is swimming-pool blue, so clear one can see fish, but here the Teslin muddies it, and until it meets the ocean it will not run clear again.
It is a milky, soupy brown.
The silt, rubbed from distant mountains, whispers at the hull, and if you dip your paddle and hold your ear to the shaft you can hear it clearer still, as though the river is deflating. Each new tributary, many of which are big rivers in their own right, adds to the load of silt, so much so that by the time I have passed the eponymous White River it runs so murky that you cannot see deeper than a single knuckle beneath the surface.
The high-cut banks give way to basalt cliffs, their lower slopes thick with juniper and the vivid pinks of fireweed, now pushing out their first flowers. And the river widens, too; at points it is maybe half a mile from one bank to the other. One afternoon I see a wolverine, swimming crosswise to the current, like a piece of drift with a mind of its own. It climbs out of the river and shakes itself before it sees me, and darts into the scrub.
A wolverine! When my grandparents moved into the house they live in now, they found a walk-in store cupboard covered with scratch marks on the inside, as though some beast had been kept in there.
What sort of terrible creature could have wolvered this cupboard, I wondered. It has forever been an animal mythic in my imagination. And no less mythic for now having seen one. Finally the weather clears and falls into a pattern of hot mornings and a slow build-up of cumuli that become distant storms by the late afternoon. Off, over the mountains, I watch the lightning and one evening — perhaps an hour or so after a storm — a pall comes down over the river. The air smells of wood, like new planks on a hot day, and the river assumes an air of total stillness.