Bison 124 was special, an unusually strong and adventurous animal. Biologists had high hopes for it.
Its wanderings in a new world made it an important member of the captive wood bison herd released into the wild in 2015, said Tom Seaton, a state wildlife biologist who oversees the Alaska Wood Bison Restoration Project.
People in villages up and down the Kuskokwim River, and beyond, loved to catch glimpses of it. The young cow had potential to become the nucleus of a satellite herd.
Then someone shot it.
Troopers say that happened Friday near the village of Quinhagak, by the Bering Sea coast about 70 miles from Bethel. They’ve charged Benjamin Moore, 25 — who is from nearby Eek and recently moved to Quinhagak, with two misdemeanors for, troopers say, illegally taking and possessing game. The meat was donated to an organization in Bethel.
According to the Dispatch News, wood bison 124 was among 130 released in 2015, but this was considered a beloved animal, making its death that much more difficult to swallow.
“It was a particularly special animal that had a lot of knowledge,” the biologist said.
He was speaking from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which cared for the wood bison before they were released and still has 20 of the animals. Seaton was helping the state veterinarian give the captives checkups and do routine medical work.
By December, Bison 124 was approaching Quinhagak. The state sent posters to hang in public buildings so people would know it was not to be hunted and what it looked like.