Hunter Adds GPS to Outfit Bear Bait Station Set in Illegal Location
Jeffrey Humphries, an avid black bear hunter, sat in a courtroom last month and listened to a judge tell him his violation for an illegal black bear bait station could result in the same type of penalties as crimes like drunken driving, assault or drug possession.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be in that position," he said.
A Fish and Wildlife Protection officer recently cited Humphries, 35, for using a black bear bait station that was not at least one mile from a developed recreational area as is required in Game Management Unit 20B, which covers the Fairbanks area.
And after being slapped with a $500 fine and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service as well as forfeit two of his black bear mounts, which he valued at about $1,000 each, three skulls and one tanned hide, Humphries said he's learned a lesson to use Global Positioning System equipment to ensure that his stations comply with regulations.
Despite attending two bear baiting courses, Humphries said he was never aware of the severity of possible penalties for an illegal black bear station, a class A misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
"If I had that impression, I would have been much more diligent in making sure I was a mile away," said Humphries, head of maintenance at North Star Rentals in North Pole.
According to Humphries' citation, his bait station was located 0.31 miles from a campground near 45 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road.
Humphries, who had hunted from the station for seven years, said he thought the station satisfied the one-mile requirement. However, Humphries estimated the distance using an ATV, which he said he now realizes is a faulty method.
Traveling over bumps, inclines or winding stretches can easily make a rider believe they've traveled farther than they actually have, he said, adding that he plans to rely only on a GPS from now on.
Jon McEnroe, the Fish and Wildlife trooper who cited Humphries, also said that GPS equipment is the only way to be certain a bear bait station is in compliance with distance requirements.
He said Fish and Wildlife troopers regularly get a list of bear bait stations, which have to be registered with the state Department of Fish and Game, and use GPS equipment to check as many of the stations as possible. Bait stations too close to a developed recreation area or where people are likely to be mean more unwanted interactions between people and bears, McEnroe said.
"Of anything I could tell you, it's really a public safety issue," he said.
Humphries, meanwhile, said he plans to continue hunting black bears using bait stations. He credits the practice with significantly reducing bear nuisance calls in the area.
"It's something I do enjoy, and it has proven itself to be very helpful in the Interior of Alaska," Humphries said.
Reporter Dan Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 459-7503.
Wolf Song of Alaska, P.O. Box 671670, Chugiak, Alaska 99567-1670