Exposing the Big Game

By Julia O’Malley

July 01, 2015

KOTZEBUE, Alaska-In this Far North village, no animal provides more protein
to fill freezers than the bearded seal. A single seal can supply hundreds of
pounds of meat, enough to feed a large, extended family for a winter.

For generations, every late June and early July, native hunters like Ross
Schaeffer and his niece Karmen Schaeffer Monigold have motored through the
broken sea ice of Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska, looking for seals
basking on frosty rafts. But this year, temperatures were close to 70
degrees, there was no ice in sight, and the seals had already migrated
north.

This seal-hunting season was the shortest in memory, lasting less than a
week, compared with the usual three weeks.

Schaeffer and Monigold did manage to get a few animals, but the conditions
were nothing like Schaeffer, 68, had seen before. By the third week in…

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