From targeting bears from airplanes, to selling bear parts, there's debate this
week over expanding predator control. At Thursday's meeting in Fairbanks, the
chairman of the Board of Game created a special committee to look into bear
management and suggest a policy for the board -- a task that won't be easy.
The committee is trying to find common ground between hunters, environmentalists,
and dozens of people who have testified in favor of more predator control so
moose populations will rise.
On the last page of the draft, under "predator control," is a list of means and
methods the board may consider, including relocation, chemical sterilization,
same-day airborne hunting in some areas, sale of hides and skulls as incentive,
multi-bear bag limits, snaring, and brown bear baiting.
That list has Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance concerned. "It gets
me very nervous," he told the board members.
The sale of bear parts has been considered taboo by Alaska Natives until recently,
when some moose populations have declined.
"There could be a lot more incidental take of bears," Mike Tinker of the Fairbanks
Advisory Committee pointed out. "But people are not going to mess with them when
they're a financial liability and you've got to bring them home and it costs
you $800 to do something with them."
"I have the sense that we're kind of moving ahead here in a direction that may
not have that broad-based public support," Joslin said at one point.
"I'm not going to be supporting opening up the entire state to same-day airborne
(hunting) and recreate the problems we had in the early '60s," said board member
Ron Somerville, a former head of the state's game division.
A decision whether or not to use predator control is supposed to be based on
science. The big questions are whose science and how much is needed.
"Can we all agree that the department will decide when there's enough science?
That's when you get into trouble because you can always have more science," said
Matt Robus of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.
The group will spend two to three days revising drafts. Once the final version
goes to the board, members can adopt the policy immediately, put it out for public
comment, or put it on hold until the next meeting in November.
In other action Thursday, the board approved the use of helicopters by those
who are trapping wolves, but that measure only affects a few people.
critics believe that the Board of Game is simply "out to get predators." Not
true, at least according to one thing it did Thursday. Board members said no
to an increase in the bag limit for wolves in the Interior, saying the current
limit is adequate.