Close Book on Game Board Horror Stories


Karen Deatherage / Compass / Anchorage Daily News / February 12, 2004


The latest proposal book for the upcoming Alaska Board of Game meeting reads like a Stephen King horror novel. Instead of Carrie, Cujo and Christine, however, we have extremist hunters and trappers attempting to take Alaska's wildlife management as far back into the dark ages as it can possibly go.

Despite the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's claim that killing wolves with aircraft would only occur on less than 1 percent of state land, there will be additional land-and-shoot wolf killing programs reviewed, and likely approved, at the Game Board meeting scheduled for Feb. 26-March 10 in Fairbanks. Aerial killing programs approved last fall have recently grown from just 40 wolves in McGrath to 140 wolves in the Nelchina Basin. In March, the Game Board will consider several programs for other game management units covering thousands of square miles in Interior Alaska. Hundreds of wolves could be slaughtered under these programs.

The killing of wolves with aircraft as a routine management tool is exactly what prompted Alaska voters to ban public aerial and land-and-shoot wolf killing in 1996 and reaffirm this ban again in 2000. Overriding these votes, Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a law last summer that would allow hunters to once again use this method for killing wolves.

There are proposals to extend wolf hunting and trapping seasons to year-round, which means month-old pups would be killed. Hunters also want to see the use of snowmachines to chase down and kill wolves expanded statewide. Perhaps the most mean-spirited proposals are from the Alaska Trappers Association which wants to eliminate the buffer zone that currently protects Alaska's most viewable wolf packs in Denali National Park. It is difficult to believe that trappers who have access to hunt and trap on 99 percent of state land would want to take away the opportunity for tens of thousands of people to see wolves in the wild. The measures currently in place protect just 18 wolves out of the state's estimated population of 7,000-11,000.

The majority of Game Board proposals, however, focus on increasing brown and black bear harvests. Hunters want both brown and black bear populations reduced to help boost moose and caribou numbers. While bear baiting is currently restricted to black bears, some proposals call for legalizing it for brown bears. There are three proposals asking to legalize the killing of bear cubs and a few seeking to allow snowmachine bear hunting. And several proposals are requesting that the sale of black and brown bear parts be legalized.

Perhaps the most disturbing proposal is one that would add bears to the state's predator control law, giving the Game Board authority to approve lethal bear control throughout Alaska for the purpose of inflating moose populations for sport hunters.

With more than 160,000 moose in Alaska -- double that found in the entire rest of the United States -- Alaskans have little to fear of losing moose populations to wolves or bears. There is not one area where moose are endangered or threatened. Both wolves and bears have co-existed with moose and caribou for millennia. They didn't wipe them out in the past, and they won't do it today. In fact, scientists around the world continue to affirm that wolves, bears and other predators promote healthy ecosystems where animals like moose and caribou can thrive.

It is time the public stepped in and let the Game Board know that these proposals are unacceptable wildlife management and are strongly opposed. Comments on proposals can be mailed or faxed to ADF&G Boards Support Section, P.O. Box 25526, Juneau 99802, Fax: 907-465-6094. To view the entire proposal book, visit www.boards.adfg.state.ak.us

And in keeping with any good horror story, comments are due on Friday the 13th.

Karen Deatherage is Alaska Program Associate for Defenders of Wildlife in Anchorage.


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