Extreme Bear Control Legislation (SB297)
to be Discussed in Senate Resources Committee

Breaking Wildlife News / March 17, 2004

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.

Bears, 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.

Bears 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.

Bears 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 Alaska.

The State Legislature hopefully will recognize Senator Seekins' bill as extremist, and not support it.

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