Hunters from the villages of Point Hope and Kivalina are suspected of massacring more than 100 caribou and leaving at least half of them to rot on the tundra earlier this month, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
Investigators arriving at the scene found a total of 120 carcasses scattered along a 40-mile trail about 25 miles east of Point Hope, prompting them to call the killings "by far the worst case of blatant waste" they have ever seen, according to a trooper spokesperson.
The meat from at least 60 animals had been either partially wasted or not even touched, troopers said. Most still had their developing antlers intact. Calves were left stranded, some still trying to suckle milk from the decomposing cows two weeks after the slaughter.
Troopers have so far identified five suspects and think there could be many more, but the investigation has been stymied by an apparent lack of cooperation from village officials, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said.
At a meeting between troopers and elders last week, investigators showed elders photos of the bulls, cows and cows with calves that had been left to waste as they explained why they were there and appealed for cooperation, Ipsen said.
"Even the elders were pretty stunned by this much waste," she said. "When we had a community meeting and showed them the photos, the room went silent."
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