Ralph Seekins has made significant changes to his proposal
to make it easier for hunters to take bears in predator-control
areas, softening but retaining provisions that allow Alaska
hunters to use airplanes on bear hunts, to bait bears and
to take nonresidents on bear-hunting trips.
"We're just trying to come up with the final version that will best accomplish
what we're after, to put more hunters in the field and give them a little better
advantage to be able to reduce the bears," Seekins, R-Fairbanks, said.
Released in March, Seekins' original bear control bill proposed heavily relaxed
hunting regulations in areas where the Board of Game has established an intensive
management program and identified bear predation as a cause of declining numbers
or productivity of game, such as moose and caribou.
Under Seekins' original proposal, in such areas hunters could:
Kill bears the same day the hunters have been airborne.
* Bait bears without having to register.
* Kill sows accompanied by yearling cubs.
* Take any bear at least a year old.
* Use motorized vehicles, hand radios and "electronic predator call devices" while
* Kill bears within a half mile of a garbage dump.
* And take nonresidents on bear hunts, even if the nonresident isn't
a relative or spouse.
the provisions of the bill applied to both black and
grizzly bears and bear seasons in those areas would
bill brought negative public comment in the Senate Resources
Committee, both from wildlife advocates and from hunting
guides who worried that making it easier for nonresidents
to hunt bears without a guide would hurt their business.
also said he's gotten feedback from a number of individuals
and outdoors groups such as the Alaska Outdoor Council.
He also made changes in response to the actions of the
Board of Game, which recently adopted many bear-control
options similar to his proposals.
"You've got to get a bill introduced, get some public testimony, (then) you flesh
out all the rest of the stuff," he said.
The most overarching change in Seekins' new version of the bill, which
he offered to the committee on April 2, is a new requirement that anyone
who wishes to hunt bears under an intensive management program needs to
obtain a bear-control permit from the state.
With one exception, all of the proposals under Seekins' bill apply to areas
of intensive bear management and to both black and brown bears, and would
be applied at the discretion of the game board. Among the other changes,
his new version would:
State that hunters can only use airplanes to "locate or assist in locating" bears,
not to pursue, herd or harass them. Seekins argues the language is stricter
than that of the previous version, which simply allowed
same-day airborne hunts.
* Still allow Alaska residents to take a nonresident hunting for bears, but
would require that the Alaskan be at least 21 and have legally hunted big game
in the state for at least two years.
* Allow people to bait bears, but only through the use of viscera, inedible
game parts or the remains of dead domestic livestock. Seekins argues the main
purpose of the clause is to allow people to drag an existing carcass to another
spot, rather than set up a bait station, which still requires registration.
* Allow for the use of motorized vehicles to "pursue and intercept" bears,
but only after the bear has been alerted to the person's presence.
* No longer allow for electronic predator call devices, but permit the use
of walkie-talkies and equipment like night scopes.
* Allow people to hunt bears without having to pay a bear tag fee, instead
requiring a $50 charge to have the bear sealed.
* Drop provisions allowing for the taking of bears near garbage dumps and the
taking of sows with yearling cubs. It also deletes the provision all bear hunts
year-round in bear-control areas. It retains the provision that all bears older
than 1 year old can be hunted in intensive management areas.
new section of Seekins' bill--which applies to all bear
hunting, not just in bear-control areas--allows people
to donate any legally taken bear hides or skulls to the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game to be sold, with the
proceeds split evenly with the donor. People could also
donate skulls or hides to charities, which could then be
Members of the Resources Committee seemed skeptical about parts of the new
bill at its first hearing. Sen. Scott Ogan, R-Palmer, said he is worried
that the bill would allow people to use vehicles equipped with searchlights
and walkie-talkies to corner bears, a scenario he said would not be looked
upon kindly by wildlife activists. And Ogan also had concerns about Seekins'
proposals regarding donating hides and skulls.
"This is a major policy shift outside of the norm," he said.
Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, worried that loosening guide requirements could
lead to a "slippery slope" of making it easier for untrained people to lead
The committee held the bill.
Tom Moran can be reached at email@example.com or (907)