25 Images

Yup’ik Eskimos hunting

HUNTER: Ronnie Peter carries birds that will feed his family in Kipnuk, Alaska, which is at the crossroads of an invisible freeway system for migratory birds. Local hunters are providing birds for H5N1 testing (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Ronnie Peter and James Active III, in the foreground, hunt for birds outside the village of Kipnuk, Alaska, which is home to 800 Ki’puk Eskimos and at the crossroads of an invisible freeway system linking migratory birds that journey along the East Asia-Australia flyway with those from the Pacific Americas flyway. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Bar-tailed godwits, flying over Cape Avinof, Alaska, are among the 29 bird species researchers fear could bring avian flu to North America. Federal officials have enlisted local hunters to help provide birds for testing. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Active, known by friends as Big Boy, retrieves a bird his hunting buddy shot. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Active rests, exhausted, in the tundra during a hunting outing near his home in Kipnuk. Villagers rely on migratory birds to feed their families. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Peter disembowels a bird in the traditional way, by hand. In the spring, a tribal health agency sent residents a newsletter outlining some of the dangers of bird flu. Its advice: Don’t eat, drink or smoke when cleaning birds, and cook the meat thoroughly. Peter said he wasn’t that worried yet. “Nobody’s gotten sick,” he said. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Active ends an afternoon of hunting birds for his family’s meals. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Peter and Active make their way home to Kipnuk by boat with the birds they will use to feed their families. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Federal wildlife biologist Brian McCaffery walks mud flats at low tide. “If it’s going to show up in wild birds, Alaska is the most likely place where it’s going to happen,” said McCaffery, who is collecting bar-tailed godwit droppings to test for avian flu. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
No roads lead to Kipnuk, home to 800 Ki’puk Eskimos. Residents get around by boat, snowmobile and all-terrain vehicles. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Australian Sarah Lovibond, 24, volunteered for two months to collect droppings of migratory birds for testing for the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Researchers take refuge from the wet chill of the tundra by briefly basking in the warmth of a propane heater. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Research volunteers Andrea Pomeroy, 27, and Lovibond observe and record the habits of bar-tailed godwits as they feed on an incoming tide near Cape Avinof. The women spent two months living in tents on the tundra to conduct their research. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Bar-tailed godwits peck into the muck left behind at low tide in the Bering Sea at Cape Avinof in western Alaska. Researchers stand in the background. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Pomeroy, of Vancouver, Canada, looks out on the Bering Sea at low tide. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Biologist Brian McCaffery carries his equipment over mud flats at low tide. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Ornithologist Carlie Henneman prepares to remove a bird trapped in a mist net designed to catch fowl without harming them. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Henneman, 31, working in Bethel, Alaska, conducted a variety of field tests on each bird before letting it fly free again. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Danny Mann, 27, took on the job of bird flu testing manager in Kipnuk for the tribal health agency. He gets $15 for every bird he samples in a messy process. The samples are stored in liquid nitrogen until he ships them to be studied. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Kipnuk is one of 10 villages chosen for testing birds. Researchers picked the remote spot in part because of its hunters’ vigor. Kipnuk villagers hunt intensely through the summer, stocking up on birds, which they usually roast into a crispy meal or boil into a soup made with onions, rice and macaroni. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Quentin Peter, 4, stands on his porch with his father, who hunted waterfowl the day before. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Delsey Amik, 10, and Heather Paul, 13, drink rainwater running off the roof of a home. Kipnuk villagers collect rainwater and use it for daily tasks such as bathing. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Annie Hinz, 56, vies for an opportunity to catch gifts being thrown at a native “seal party” or “throw party,” where the bride tosses gifts to all the women in the village. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Charlie and Carrie Paul ride an all-terrain vehicle on one of Kipnuk’s elevated boardwalks. (Rick Loomis / LAT)
Steven Mann, right, a former Army sergeant who oversees tribal operations in Kipnuk, feasts on a meal of wild bird, bread and Eskimo ice cream at a wedding reception. Beside him is his wife, Mary Jane. When he first started receiving faxes on bird flu safety, Mann said he thought, “Oh, Lord, what are we going to eat? Store-bought food?” (Rick Loomis / LAT)