Sale of big game trophies allowed in divorces

By Tim Mowry

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 2:13 p.m. MDT

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Alaskans who get divorced and don't want to look at the moose head their hunting-crazy spouse hung on the wall now have an option. They can sell it.

While the Alaska Board of Game rejected a proposal to allow the sale of big game trophies in Alaska during its meeting in Fairbanks last week, the board agreed to add divorces to the list of special circumstances under which the sale of big game trophies in Alaska would be allowed.

Previously it was only legal to sell big game trophies if they were part of an estate settlement, included in a bankruptcy sale, or if they were mounts prepared by taxidermists that went unclaimed.

"I support this," board member Ted Spraker of Soldotna said during discussion of the proposal. "There will be very limited cases and it's probably usually a case where people are in some financial situation."

The proposal was submitted by Mary Jane Sutliff, an Anchorage attorney who said she ended up with a Dall sheep mount and black bear hide as a result of her 2008 divorce.

"I inherited trophies from a divorce," Sutliff wrote in her proposal. "I did not want them. I would like to sell them."

In a phone interview, Sutliff said her ex-husband "unloaded" the trophies on her, as well as several others, thinking his son would get them.

"It was a way for him not to have to pay to store them," she said.

Dale Rabe, interim director for the state's Division of Wildlife Conservation, said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game didn't have a problem with adding divorces to the list of circumstances allowing the sale of big game trophies.

"I don't see this happening very often," Rabe told the board.

The proposal passed by a 5-2 vote.

Lynn Keough of Anchorage was one of two board members to vote against it.

"Can you tell me how you get divorced and end up with things you don't want?" Keough asked.

"I've been divorced twice; I can tell you how," replied Spraker, drawing a laugh from the audience and fellow board members.

For example, Spraker said, a divorce settlement may stipulate that one person gets the house with the furnishings, which might include mounts on the wall.

"Say the wife didn't want that mounted moose head over the fire place and wants to sell it," Spraker said.

Board member Nate Turner, who splits his time between Fairbanks and a homestead on the Kantishna River, said the new regulation might help Alaska's divorce rate.

"I think once people realize they can lose their trophies through divorce they might not want to get divorced," he said.

Sutliff said she intends to talk to her son to see if he "has an emotional attachment" to any of the trophies she acquired and if he doesn't, she plans to sell them.

"I'm not going to store them," she said. "I'll market them and sell them."

The Game Board had a more serious discussion on a proposal to allow the sale of trophy mounts, which was submitted by the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee. The proposal asked that hunters be allowed to sell trophies that have been prepared by taxidermists because they are personal property.

In the last two months, there have been two cases in Fairbanks where people were cited for selling big game trophies.

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