a wolf pack fresh off a moose kill, the Alaska Board of Game
pushed back from the table on Wednesday after digesting two
weeks' worth of proposals to change hunting and trapping regulations
around the state, many of them dealing with predator control.
game board completed a 14-day meeting in Fairbanks on Wednesday
and members seemed satiated after adopting two new aerial
wolf-control programs and creating a bear management policy
that directs the state to treat grizzly bears as predators
in specific areas where bears are preying on moose.
trying to undo eight years of inaction that resulted in the
curtailment of subsistence activities in rural Alaska,"
said Fairbanks board member Pete Buist, referring to the fact
that former Gov. Tony Knowles did not initiate any wolf-control
programs during his two terms as governor. "We certainly
haven't solved the problem, but we've taken some steps to
address the problem."
the board adopted aerial wolf-control programs for both Game
Management Units 19A in the central Kuskokwim region and 16B
in western Cook Inlet.
to begin this fall, the two programs will be modeled after
aerial wolf hunts taking place in Game Management Unit 19D
east near McGrath and part of GMU 13 in the Nelchina Basin.
Permits will be issued to qualified pilot-gunner teams for
aerial shooting or land-and-shoot efforts.
game board also adopted a statewide brown bear management
policy that allows the board to direct the Department of Fish
and Game to treat grizzly bears as predators in areas where
it's been documented they are killing moose calves.
actions follow a predator-control path the board has been
following since it was overhauled by Gov. Frank Murkowski
a little over a year ago.
state now has seven wolf-control programs on the books. While
only two--the McGrath and Nelchina Basin aerial hunts--have
been initiated, that will change this fall when the state
begins issuing permits for two other aerial hunts in areas
where state wildlife biologists have documented dramatic declines
in the moose populations as a result of predation.
game board approved a program to kill 140 to 180 wolves in
a 10,000-square-mile area in the central Kuskokwim region
and a similar program was adopted for a 10,000-square-mile
area in western Cook Inlet to kill as many as 100 wolves.
lot of people say we're doing too much too fast, but we're
not doing too much too fast when you listen to the advisory
committees and the public pleading for us to do something,"
said board member Sharon McLeod-Everette of Fairbanks.
3 1/2 days of public testimony to start the meeting, the board
was besieged by pleas from residents throughout the Interior
for predator-control programs in their areas.
the Kuskokwim River to the Brooks Range to the Canadian border,
people said a rise in predation on moose and caribou by wolves
and bears is threatening their subsistence and Alaska lifestyles.
the fact the game board is constitutionally and legislatively
mandated to manage Alaska's game resources for a high human
harvest, board chairman Mike Fleagle of McGrath said the board
has little choice but to enact predator control in many areas
of the state.
you're managing these ungulate populations for human consumption,
you can't stand back and let them manage themselves, which
is what has been done for the past eight years," said
Fleagle. "Hopefully in the future we'll get to the point
where it's considered maintenance instead of wolf control."
game board also approved a brown bear management plan that
gives the board the option of using the same methods to reduce
grizzly bears that are being used to kill wolves in areas
where severe predation is documented.
board member Ron Somerville noted that the board voted down
proposals on same-day airborne hunting of bears, baiting of
brown bears and sale of bear hides, though the potential use
of all those methods is included in the bear policy adopted
by the board.
Somerville said the board has been site specific, choosing
only intensive management areas that have a documented predator
we did is not a wholesale war on predators," Somerville
Grussendorf of Sitka, the only holdover from the previous
game board appointed by Knowles, was the only board member
concerned that the state may be moving too fast with predator
control, an opinion he voiced several times during the two-week
data we have is fine but maybe we need a little bit more before
we start launching off on some of this stuff," said Grussendorf,
a former state legislator.
not how McLeod-Everette sees it.
you have biologists saying the numbers are down, even though
they can't give you specific numbers, and when you have advisory
committees saying the numbers are down and when you have anecdotal
information saying the numbers are down ... you don't have
to count the last moose to know there's trouble," she
board's actions were met with reluctant acceptance by Department
of Fish and Game administrators, who now must find the money
to carry out the plans prescribed by the game board, as well
as bolster the biological justification behind them.
certainly have to consider how many resources we can scrape
up in a time of declining budgets to put the best science
toward these programs," said Kim Titus, deputy director
of the state's game division.
wolf-control programs in certain areas also builds expectations
for similar programs in other areas, said Titus.
groups in Southeast and northwest Alaska are screaming for
more science," he said.
is Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, a preservationist
group opposed to wolf or bear control in Alaska. The state
needs more biology on bears before it starts letting hunters
use bait or airplanes to hunt them, he said.
said the board is "out of control" and renewed his
call for a more balanced game board that includes other interests
besides trapping and hunting.
board is not shy about predator control," Joslin said.
"This board is doing all it can to maximize production
of moose and caribou for hunters across the state."
precisely what the job of the game board is, said Ted Spraker
of Kenai. The board's actions were driven by long-term declines
in moose populations and the testimony of the people who live
in the country, he said.
along the line you have to say this is the best information
we have," said Spraker, a retired state wildlife biologist.
"You can sit around and wring your hands or you can use
the best information available to be proactive."
board member Somerville agreed.
seems like we don't do anything until we get to a crisis,"
he said. "You wouldn't manage your portfolio that way."
outdoors editor Tim Mowry can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
or at 459-7587.