-- While the Alaska Board of Game did not declare war on bears
on Monday, it began mobilizing.
state took its first step toward manipulating brown bear populations
to produce more moose when the Game Board unanimously adopted
a statewide policy that will permit options such as trapping,
sterilization, baiting and land-and-shoot hunting for black
and grizzly bears in areas deemed necessary by the board.
not a war on bears," Fairbanks board member Sharon McLeod-Everette
said of the policy. "It gives us a tool to handle bear
predation the same way we're handling wolf predation."
state recently initiated aerial wolf hunts in McGrath and
the Nelchina Basin to boost moose numbers and is on the verge
of aiming at bears after recent studies demonstrated that
bears play an important predatory role.
board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature,
sets and oversees Alaska wildlife management. It has been
meeting for almost two weeks and is scheduled to conclude
its business today.
board is considering changes to hunting and trapping regulations
around the state, and many of the changes center on declining
moose and caribou populations because of predation by wolves
of people told the board they wanted predator control in the
areas they live, and the board was receptive.
have to take action against predators to keep from driving
our prey populations into a pit they can't climb out of,"
board member Cliff Judkins of Wasilla said.
soon the state will begin any type of bear-control program
remains to be seen, however. The board hasn't selected any
specific areas, said Kim Titus, deputy director for the state's
took a number of years to get where we are with wolves,"
Titus said. "I would not expect the issue of bears to
just happen. It's not going to happen without public debate."
state's current and past wolf-control activities have brought
uproar as well as calls for national tourism boycotts.
in the U.S. is there any program associated with control of
brown or grizzly bears," Titus said. "It's a new
to the policy adopted unanimously by the seven-member board
on Monday, bear-control programs will be considered only in
areas that are designated for intensive management, a state
law that mandates game populations in those areas to be managed
for human consumption.
is to cure a problem," said McLeod-Everette, one of the
state's first female hunting guides. "I think over time
people will understand this isn't meant to wipe out everything
and be used everywhere."
poison and shooting bears from the air are prohibited in the
policy, the board could approve relocation, sterilization,
use of communications equipment between trappers or hunters,
sale of hides and skulls as incentive, trapping, using bear
parts for hand-crafted items, baiting, changing the definition
of a legal bear, same-day airborne hunting, land-and-shoot
hunting and diversionary feeding.
board made its decision after Titus recommended a "surgical
approach" to bear predation in Alaska. He said control
programs should be used only after all hunting options to
increase game harvest have failed.
the department has a reliable estimate of how many wolves
are in the state, biologists don't know how many bears there
are, he said. They are the hardest big game species to count,
Titus told the board. And they reproduce slowly.
member Pete Buist said the board was taking a "measured"
approach. He pointed out that after the board adopted the
policy, it voted down proposals that would have made baiting
grizzly bears, shooting yearling cubs with their sows and
selling bear hides legal in some areas.
not charging into it," Buist said.
not the opinion of Paul Joslin, wildlife director for the
Alaska Wildlife Alliance, which opposes bear control.
whole direction of this board is to manipulate prey populations
for the sole benefit of hunters at the expense of the whole
wildlife species," Joslin said. "They're not very
appreciative of the role predators play in the environment."
study is needed before any kind of bear control is used, he
with bears isn't there," said Joslin, a wildlife biologist.
"We don't have a handle on the numbers. Bears are such
slow breeders that if you make a mistake, it may take years
bear biologist Harry Reynolds called the policy "a starting
point" in bear management and emphasized that caution
must be used when dealing with bears.
don't want to reduce bear populations to extremely low levels
where it would be difficult for them to recover," he