Moose Burger being moved by volunteers (Photo provided by Desi Burrell)

A moose hunt can be very important for those living in rural Alaska because it can put hundreds of pounds of meat in the freezer. However, the moose hunt in the central Southeast region has strict antler regulations put in place by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Sometimes hunters can take an illegal moose by mistake. 

On average, ten percent of the moose from the fall hunt are harvested illegally every year. 

Wildlife Trooper Sergeant Cody Litster helps to enforce these regulations.

“So this all comes from the registration moose permit that has, that comes from around here. The moose ‘round here aren’t a trophy moose, but Fish and Game’s view of it is they need to have some sort of antler regulation to allow everybody to participate,” said Litster.

“So if you put a definition on what moose are legal or not, mistakes are gonna happen. And so mistakes do happen, and they happen quite a lot.”

When a moose is killed by mistake, hunters are faced with fines and are unable to keep the animal. They have to surrender it to the Wildlife Troopers. 

The question then becomes what to do with the meat?

Steve and Desi Burrell are members of the Petersburg Rotary Club, and manage the Burger Bank.  They thought that the fines the court gave the hunters for the illegal kill could be used toward processing the meat. 

“Typically when a illegal moose or deer, whatever is taken, they have kind of a list of people that they would bring to that would take care of the animals and, and disperse them out within their, their group or whatever. And it would come in like hind quarters, and so on and so forth,” said Desi Burrell.

“And one of the ideas is that every person at any age can eat burger pretty much if you can tolerate any sort of red meat. And so the idea was to take any illegal animal mousse specifically, and turning it all into burger. And that way the distribution could be spread out a little bit more and easy for people to freeze and to take care of and to distribute. So through that the court was approached in regards to cut, is this something that could be done? Could the court order that, you know, a moose be turned into burger.”

By turning the meat into burger it would allow for easier distribution to non-profit organizations and food kitchens around Petersburg.

And for the hunters who received the hunting violation, they can pay for the processing fees of the moose and use that against their fine.

Again, here’s Sergeant Litster,

“So at the end of the day, these nonprofit organizations and food kitchen sort of places get get free meat that was packaged professionally, and the violators are the people who made the mistake are paying for it without putting money into nameless state coffers,” said Litster

“So it’s a complete win for the community is a great way for community organizations to benefit and for community businesses to donate. It’s it’s a complete and absolute win.”

The burger bank has been going on for at least the last six years according to the Burrells.

This year the burger bank has distributed 1748 pounds of moose burger with around 400 pounds being held in the community cold storage to be distributed in February.