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‘You came after me and mine’: Chickaloon woman wants justice after pet ducks slaughtered

Updated: Sep. 19, 2021 at 9:00 AM AKDT
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CHICKALOON, Alaska (KTUU) - Lots of people use the Long Lake State Recreation Area off the Glenn Highway in Chickaloon at about mile 86. It’s got a boat ramp, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocks the lake. There aren’t many facilities or state officials monitoring the area.

Not far from the parking lot is Christina Jon Byers’ cabin. She claims a lack of law and order near her home has led to her being victimized by people either passing through or going fishing. Recently, it’s gone too far.

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Byers said she went into town to get some supplies and when she returned, seven of her 10 pet ducks were slaughtered. One of the survivors had to be taken to the vet in critical condition. Since it was Labor Day, Byers said she had to wait to take the bird to the vet.

“The X-ray revealed that she had been shot,” Byers said. “She had three bits of buckshot lodged in the back of her head up against the boney areas, which is why it was so painful.”

She’s been living in her cabin since 2015. During this time, she said a number of incidents have occurred. She’s had a row-boat stolen, her front door vandalized and strange men walking through her property, to name a few.

“They do absolutely whatever they feel like doing,” she said about people in the area. “They defecate on the trail, they just tear up the lake, just open up their motors right from the boat launch and just completely disregard my dock.”

Being a single woman who lives near the highway but far away from law enforcement, Byers said she usually feels a little uneasy, but since her ducks were killed she’s on “high-alert.”

“I feel like someone was waiting for me to leave,” she said. “They took that opportunity.”

Byers said she’s reached out to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and State Park officials for help.

“It was just very much, ‘I’m sorry to hear that you’re continually victimized, but we don’t have the money to fund the park,’” Byers said.

Superintendent of the Matanuska-Susitna Area for Alaska State Parks Stuart Leidner is one of the people who has had to tell her that.

“It’s not a great feeling. You know? We feel bad for them,” Leidner said. “We would like it to not be happening at all. But that’s the reality of where we’re at at the moment.”

Leidner explained that State Parks, like most departments in recent years, has gone through many budget cuts. For the entire Mat-Su area, he said there is less than a $300,000 operating budget. He said payroll is a separate budget, but it does include funds for contracted services like snow removal.

“So our projects and our staff are getting more limited, but, especially in the last 18 months, the amount of visitation has gone up dramatically,” he said. “So you see the demand is there for these public resources, but with instances with Long Lake, it’s sort of a tragedy of the commons, because everyone is using it but we need everybody to take responsibility for their actions.”

Because of low budgets, the Long Lake recreation area is in “passive management.”

“It just means that it’s a unit that is within our ownership but that we don’t have any staff or budgeting or time that we actually spend managing that facility,” Leidner said. “and without going back to find the official date that that was demobilized, it’s been well over seven, eight years to our knowledge.”

Leidner said they have to prioritize what they spend the money on, and those decisions always go to the most used places, like in Hatcher Pass or Denali State Park.

Byers did file a report with Alaska State Troopers. Troopers said the investigation is open and ongoing. Spokespeople said troopers are regularly patrolling the Glenn Highway, including Chickaloon.

Byers said she doesn’t feel safe, though. Ever since her ducks were shot, they’ve been living in the cabin with her so she can watch over them. She said she hardly leaves now.

She said the cabin has been her retirement plan for about 20 years. Even though she feels targeted, she said she’s not going anywhere and plans to defend her property if it comes down to it.

“You literally came after me and mine. What am I supposed to do?” she said. “I’m not just going to stand here and be scared and put bars on my window. No, I’m going to buy a couple more firearms.”

In addition to contacting the authorities, Byers has posted a $1,000 reward for information on who shot her ducks. She’s even hired a private investigator, she said.

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