New Tools Needed for Predator Control


Editorial / Kenai Peninsula Clarion / February 24, 2004


Nothing is more frustrating than facing a job knowing you lack the proper tools. Any do-it-yourselfer can relate to that. Oh, sure, the job might get done, but it will be a struggle getting there, it will take longer than it should and, probably, it will cost more than it should.

We can't afford such sloppiness when it comes to managing Alaska's fish and game populations. So along comes Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, with a new set of tools for the Alaska Board of Game.

Last year, the senator pushed through legislation that put tools in the hands of the board and the governor, which, in turn, has allowed wolf control efforts to move forward in areas where populations of those predators have depressed game populations.

While there are more efficient means to do the job, the regulations now allow skilled Alaskans to help manage the game populations in their own back yards.

The senator now seeks to add tools that would allow the board to give residents similar ability to address bear populations in those same areas through provisions in SB 297.

If it wasn't widely known that bears are as great a factor or, in some instances, a greater factor in depressing game populations as are wolves, then last spring's bear relocation effort on the part of Fish and Game should have helped spread that knowledge by now. The relocation program was effective to a degree, but it was costly.

Seekins, by asking to modifying statutes that provide the framework guiding fish and game regulations, is advocating for a new set of tools the board can use in areas identified as those in need of intensive management. The tools would allow attempts to reduce bear populations without relying on expensive state-run programs.

The tools include removing a restriction that requires nonresidents to hire a professional guide or to be accompanied by a family member to hunt grizzly bears. Instead, a nonresident simply could be accompanied by any Alaskan 19 years or older.

This could be effective, allowing skilled hunters to accompany friends or distant relatives who are interested in taking a bear. It would allow a friend or an in-law to pick up a bear tag before going moose or caribou hunting, adding considerably to the pool of hunters able to take ''incidental'' bears Ð which make up a large portion of the fall bear harvest. Other tools include: allowing baiting of grizzly bears; allowing same-day airborne hunting and use of motorized vehicles in the taking of bears; allowing the kill of sows with cubs that are 1 year of age or older and the kill of those same 1-year-olds; and no closed season on bear.

Granted, some of the tools look a little scary, but they must be addressed in the context that they are designed for predator control in limited areas for limited amounts of time.

If it makes sense to target wolves for population reduction in certain areas, it logically follows that those population-reduction strategies should extend to bears, which, in some areas, kill as many or more moose as wolves. Decisions about which tools are used in what area, and to what extent they are used, is rightly left to the public process that involves the Alaska Board of Game.

As long as they are applied carefully and in limited areas for a limited time, it only makes sense to allow the board access to a full array of tools to do the job.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

 


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