Hunting poisons of the North Pacific Region

Lloydia. Mar-Jun 1976;39(2-3):87-124.


The hunting poisons of the North Pacific region are discussed. The most important one used by the Ainu was based on Aconitum species (surku or suruku): on Hokkaido, to some extent A. japonicum Thumb. but probably mainly A. yezoense Nakai and A. sachalinense Fr. Schm.; on southern Sakhalin, perhaps A. fischeri Reichb., A. maximum Pall. ex DC., and/or A. sachalinense Fr. Schm.; and on the Kuril Islands, A. maximum Pall. ex DC. Poison from the Japanese stingray Dasyatis akajei (Müller et Henle) (aikor chiep) was also much used, alone or mixed with aconite, and was believed by some Ainu to be better than aconite. Adjuvants to these poisons were numerous and varied in each locality. Daphne kamtschatica Maxim. var. yezoensis (Maxim.) Ohwi (ketuhas) was used in hunting walrus. The use of Cynanchum caudatum (Miq.) Maxim. (penup) enabled birds to be caught. Juglans ailanthifolia Carr (nesko) was a fish poison. A critical evaluation of the accounts by Krasheninnikov, Steller, Harms, and others, indicates that the inhibitants of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kamchadal (Itelmen), hunted with a poison derived from Aconitum maximum Pall. ex DC. This same species was almost certainly used in the Aleutian Islands and the Kodiak Island region, principally for hunting whales. There is some evidence that the inhabitants of the far north-eastern part of Siberia and of the Alaskan coasts opposite may also have used poison in hunting. The chemistry and toxicology of the poisons are briefly considered.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Aconitum / history
  • Alaska
  • Alkaloids* / history
  • Animals
  • Chemistry
  • Drug Synergism
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Fishes, Poisonous
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Japan
  • Marine Toxins / history
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Poisons / history*
  • Poisons / toxicity
  • Siberia
  • Species Specificity


  • Alkaloids
  • Marine Toxins
  • Poisons