The State Senate is slated to vote today on whether or not to allow money incentives as a way to kill brown bears and black bears in areas designated for control. Senate Bill 297, if approved, would allow:
… Hunters who kill bears to turn in the hides and skulls for auction to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The department would be obligated to pay 50 percent of the proceeds to the hunters.
… Non-resident hunters would be allowed to kill bears while in the company of permitted resident hunters who were not registered guides. Non-residents could save thousands of dollars by not having to pay guide fees.
Senator Seekins' bill is part of an all out war on bears. In March the Board of Game, well known for its anti-predator stance, approved an arsenal of ways and means to accelerate elimination of bears. Included were public same day airborne killing of bears, public land and shoot killing of bears, public snaring of bears, public baiting for brown bears as well as black bears, sterilization and mass bear relocation projects like the 94 bears that were dumped hundreds of miles away from McGrath last spring. The Board also allocated the killing of "at least 1000 bears" by means of baiting in 18 Game Management Units, or nearly double the current annual take by baiting. Shooting of one year old cubs was also approved, as was the use of communications equipment between hunters or trappers.
Little is known about the status of bears in Alaska. They are extremely difficult to census, making it difficult for biologists to know when over-harvesting has occurred, and an ecological disaster is in the making.
Bears have a low reproductive rate. Brown bears have the lowest reproductive rate of any North American land mammal. It does not take much to over-harvest them. When this happens it can take many 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 Alaska's bear populations.
Because bears eat moose and caribou does not make them vermin. They have successfully co-existed with these species for tens of thousands of years, and have done so in a manner that has enabled there to be over a million moose and caribou alive today in Alaska.
No biological emergencies have been identified by scientists anywhere in the state that would warrant the use of bear control.
Contact: Dr. Paul Joslin, Wildlife Director, Alaska Wildlife Alliance
Office (907) 277 9816, cell (907) 250 5944, firstname.lastname@example.org