A tenth of the moose taken last season by hunters in Wrangell, Petersburg and Kake ended up being confiscated by authorities. It could be for a number of reasons. But, these Southeast Alaska communities are making sure none of the meat goes to waste.
On a Friday in December, a small crew of hunters are moving hundreds of pounds of moose meat from the public cold storage freezer into Chris Guggenbickler’s truck.
It’s his job to deliver more than 400 packages of roast and burger to individuals and organizations in town.
This moose meat was seized by Alaska Wildlife Troopers. It could’ve been for any number of reasons: the animal was too young or didn’t have the right antler configuration. But whatever the circumstances, folks like Guggenbickler are volunteering to make sure none of it’s wasted.
“I’m just gonna drive up to the Catholic Church,” he tells his crew. “They’re going to get a lot of this.
In the church’s kitchen, a local cohort of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Association is putting together care packages for elders.
“They’ll have moose meat, moose burger, cookies, candy canes, apples and oranges,” says Lovey Brock.
Brock, Guggenbickler, the Salvation Army and local churches met throughout the fall to figure out how any confiscated moose meat could best be distributed to the community. Of the dozen moose seized in the Wrangell, Petersburg and Kake hunting unit this past season, three went to feeding the needy in Wrangell.
“I brought a package to one of the elders and they said they’d never gotten a package from anybody,” Brock says.
Giving this meat away isn’t new in the Southeast town. But this year, the Sitkine Sportsmen and Wrangell’s Fish and Game Advisory Committee coordinated with the magistrate, so that fines for the moose would end up paying a local butcher to process the meat. In years past, a wildlife trooper would call folks out of the blue offering a whole carcass.
Guggenbickler says someone had gotten a call that there was a moose hanging at the hoist with hide still on it.
“And the person couldn’t take care of it,” he says.
That’s a tough job for anyone. And it’s not doable for most elders and folks who don’t hunt and aren’t equipped to quarter a moose.
This year the thousand pounds of meat ultimately went to 120 individuals, plus food banks, a school lunch program and community events.
Processing the meat was the first order of business. The second was making sure any in need could get some meat. The organizing committee cross-referenced lists of who should get a roast or package of burger. Guggenbickler says that wasn’t to nitpick someone’s need, it was to add as many people as possible.
“We know that there’s gonna be people we missed. We’ve got a list we’re going to maintain and we’ll try and put people on there that we may have forgotten,” he says.
In Wrangell, leftover moose roasts will be served at a town potluck in January. That’ll offer a taste to the wider community.