Predator Hunting Proposals Create Tension

(Alex Vanderstuyf/NPS)

(Alex Vanderstuyf/NPS)

Our correspondent and longtime Alaskan hunter, Steve Meyer, will weigh in on controversial proposed changes to predator hunting in Alaska’s National Park Service preserves in the December issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. And there are plenty of narratives being written about the subject.

From the Fairbanks News-Miner:

A rules change up for public comment Thursday night in Fairbanks would formally codify a series of temporary orders that ban practices like hunting brown bears over bait, hunting wolf and coyote pups during denning season and hunting black bears with artificial light. 

Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game strongly opposes the rules change.  The rules change applies to national preserves in Alaska, federal land managed by the National Park Service, but which unlike national parks allow for sport hunting. 

 

Ordinarily state hunting regulations would apply in the national preserves. But in Alaska the parks service says an “increasing number of liberalized” predator hunting techniques allowed by state law conflict with the park service’s mission, according to Joel Hard, the park service’s regional director for the Alaska Region.  

Wildlife columnist Bill Sherwonit of the Alaska Dispatch News was not pleased with the state’s government officials, specifically Governor Sean Parnell. Sherwonit argues about Parnell’s stance on Medicaid expansion but also his willingness to be open to proposed projects like the Pebble Mine and how it might affect the Bristol Bay salmon industry as reasons why he thinks Parnell’s time as governor should end. But the predator hunting rules have also turned off Sherwonit, as he writes:

But there’s another reason Parnell needs to go: the threats that he and his appointees present to Alaska’s wildlife and their habitat. I’ve closely followed Alaska’s wildlife management and politics since the mid-1980s, and I’ve never witnessed such regressive management as that practiced under the Parnell administration.

 It’s fair to say that state management of wildlife and critically important habitat is the worst it’s been since statehood. This is demonstrated in part by state-run predator-control programs, which are more extreme than they’ve ever been.

Only in recent years have the Board of Game and Alaska Department of Fish and Game chosen to use such methods as the gassing of wolf pups in their dens, the snaring of both black bears and grizzlies, the baiting of grizzlies, the shooting of bears from helicopters, and the aerial gunning of wolves in places where it’s clear that changing habitat is primarily responsible for ungulate declines, not predation.

 

 It wasn’t so long ago that the killing of female bears with cubs was considered both unethical and unwise. But under Parnell, the game board has decided that in some parts of the state, any bear can be killed by us humans, including sows with cubs and the cubs themselves.

 In short, the state’s war on wolves and now bears (what else can you call it?) has grown ever more extreme with Parnell in charge, primarily to appease urban and suburban “sport” and trophy hunters. It’s a travesty that so far seems to have gone largely unnoticed, or ignored, by the majority of Alaskans.

It should be a contentious topic around the state for some time.

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