Senator Seekins’ bill SB 297 treats bears as
vermin. This bill allows just about every imaginable way to
butcher them. Hunters will be allowed to shoot sows with cubs
as well as kill cubs on their own that are only one year old.
People wishing to kill bears will be permitted to go after
them with aircraft, snowmachines, four-wheelers, cars, trucks,
airboats, indeed any motorized vehicle that can give them
access to bears. Hunters will be permitted to train bears
to come to artificially created food dumps so they can be
shot. All manner of electronic means to coordinate hunts or
otherwise improve the chances of killing bears will be made
legal. Both brown bears and black bears will be subject to
the same abuse. No closed season will exist for killing bears.
Many recognized authorities are speaking out against such
liberalizations. In response to similar proposals recently
considered by the Board of Game, the International Association
for Bear Research and Management said, "We believe that
the potential detrimental effects of such regulation changes
have not been adequately addressed and that their implementation
could jeopardize sustained yield management and public use
of Alaska bear populations". The National Park Service,
in its review of brown bear management in Western Arctic,
stated: "Both subsistence and sport hunting opportunities
for brown bears have been and continue to be liberalized in
northwest Alaska without recent and rigorously reviewed scientific
information about the status of the hunted populations.
especially brown bears, have a low reproductive rate. It does
not take much to over-harvest them. When this happens it can
take years for them to recover. This was a major point brought
out by the two year National Academy of Sciences study of
predator management in Alaska. It recommended against the
manipulation of bear populations.
are also extremely difficult to count, making it difficult
for biologists to know when over-harvesting has occurred,
and an ecological disaster is in the making. Unlike wolves,
moose and caribou that can easily be counted against snow
in winter, bears go into hibernation. The only time bears
can be counted is during the time of year when they are surrounded
by a background of vegetation.
are not vermin. While they sometimes kill moose and caribou,
it does not mean that the net effect is detrimental to the
moose and caribou population. Bears not only have successfully
co-existed with these species for tens of thousands of years,
which ought to be a pretty good measure of their ecological
importance, they have also done so in a manner that has enabled
there to be over a million moose and caribou alive today in
State Legislature hopefully will recognize Senator Seekins'
bill as extremist, and not support it.