Metropolis and Moose in Conflict

Rod Arno / Voice of the Times / Anchorage Daily News / May 8, 2004

Wildlife issues are big news in Alaska. It's been that way, no doubt, since the first people moved into Alaska over 10,000 years ago. Fish and wildlife resources have always been Alaska's biggest attraction.

It's not surprising that the moose mover bill, SB 329, is causing a media stir. The moose mover legislation is prime for attacks from the "anti- wildlife management crowd" and they're out to disrupt public support for its passage.

The founder of the Alaska Moose Federation, Gary Olson, came up with an idea for decreasing accidents caused when cars and trains collide with moose.

Olson reasoned that relocating moose away from heavy urban traffic to areas where the moose population was below the amount necessary for subsistence use would benefit the majority of Alaskans. Car insurance companies and public safety officials all agree fewer moose in high density urban areas would save both lives and money.

In January of this year, Olson wrote deputy commissioner Wayne Regelin of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game asking for help on how to reduce the number of moose being killed by cars and trains. Regelin informed Olson of the department's wildlife transplant policy developed by staff in the Division of Wildlife Conservation in 1995. The wildlife transplant policy is now a Board of Game adopted regulation.

Regelin went on to state, "However, I am not aware of any efforts where moose have been transplanted to reduce mortality caused by motor vehicles or trains." Regelin went on to say that the high cost of funding moose transplant programs made them impractical within the limits of the Fish and Game budget.

With this input from Fish and Game, Olson turned to Sen. Con Bunde to introduce SB 329 which, when passed into law, would allow the Alaska Moose Federation to submit a moose transplant proposal based on public safety concerns. SB 329 also states that "the commissioner shall seek to relocate moose at the least cost to the state," meaning funding sources other than from Fish and Game's funds must be found.

The Alaska Moose Federation is ready to go out and raise the needed funds. If they can't, no nuisance moose transplant will survive the public's and department's transplant evaluation criteria.

All wildlife transplant proposals require four steps: a scoping report; a feasibility assessment including biological and social risk analysis; public and Fish and Game review; and a formal Fish and Game transplant plan. Nothing in the moose mover bill changes any of these procedures.

The anti-game management crowd are blowing smoke when they complain about unqualified individuals climbing over your back fence darting moose and hauling them off to the Bush.

What is the Defenders of Wildlife's problem with a law allowing moose transplants for public safety reasons? If the Defenders of Wildlife object to a moose being moved from an area of high human density to a remote location they have every opportunity of voicing their concern during the public review of the transplant feasibility assessment.

If the majority of Alaskans agree it's better to have a moose wrapped around a car hood then being relocated away from urban areas, then no nuisance moose will be moved.

The Defenders of Wildlife want to do away with managing moose populations for human use. To achieve that they had best go right to the source, Alaska's Constitution. Article VIII, Sections 1, 2, and 4 of the state constitution tells the legislature that they will create laws allowing for the "utilization, development and maintenance of wildlife."

The intent in Alaska's Constitution is to manage wildlife as a sustainable resource. The term "conserve" was deleted by the Constitutional Committee on Natural Resources, and replaced with the word "maintain" just to make sure future legislatures got the point.

Anti-wildlife management advocates, and their media supporters, have thwarted active game management in the Anchorage area for years now. Ask Sen. Bunde about archery moose hunts on the Hillside and he'll tell you that after the last negative hunter media blitz, the Alaska bowhunting community isn't interested in any more urban moose hunts.

As the human population continues to spread out across the Anchorage Bowl and beyond, new ways of dealing with the urban moose population will need to be considered. That's just what the moose mover bill is trying to accomplish.

Rod Arno is a big game guide and political Pro-hunting activist
in Alaska and past president of AOC

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