- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NOME, Alaska (AP) - A shortage of ammunition in the country is starting to affect Alaska subsistence hunters.

The Native Store in Gambell on Saint Lawrence Island has had trouble keeping popular ammunition in stock for hunters trying to harvest bearded seal and other marine mammals or migratory birds returning to the Bering Strait, KNOM-radio reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1gLfiV5 ). That includes .300-, .303- and .243-caliber shells.

“We’ve also been having a hard time getting some .22 shells,” manager Mary Ungut said. “It seems that the price is increasing, too.”

Shotgun shells and other common calibers are back on shelves in Nome and Gambell, but the shortages align with what shooters are finding in stores elsewhere, including Anchorage.

There was a run on ammunition after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 12, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The national debate over firearms restrictions contributed to rising demand for ammunition, Michael Bazinet, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group for gun manufacturers and retailers, said in October.

The Gambell Native Store gets its ammunition from the Alaska Native Industries Cooperative Association, which supplies 40 stores from the Aleutians to Kaktovik. Distribution manager Bill Williams watches subsistence hunting seasons to ship the right ammunition at the appropriate times. If the company cannot fill all orders, it divides ammunition based on need, Williams said.

“We would prioritize the subsistence needs,” Williams said, “if people are ugruk (bearded seal) hunting and we have .223 ammo in and don’t have enough for everybody - it would go to the people that are hunting ugruks at the time.”

Williams usually relies on Anchorage distributors but has had to reach out to Washington state suppliers.

“Two years ago, we still had an order coming when all the stores in Anchorage ran out of ammunition. So we did have an insulation because we did have a big shipment of ammo coming in,” Williams said.

The following summer and into this year inventories were almost depleted.

“This spring has been really bad,” he said. “But it’s starting to come back around.”

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Information from: KNOM-AM, http://www.knom.org