Category Archives: Featured Content

Duck, Duck, Moose! A Bull And An Alaskan At Play

You never what might join you in Alaska when you’re doing the mostly boring tasks like taking out the garabage. KTUU shared the video, which is pretty crazy.

Here’s KTUU with more:

When the man turns around from the shed, the moose speeds up in his direction. The man takes his option of ducking inside the shed, closing the doors to barricade himself from the moose. After a few seemingly curious moments, the moose moves on.

 

Pondering The Present And Future Of Hunting

Photos courtesy of Paul Atkins

The following appears in the January issue of Alaska Sporting Journal: 

BY PAUL D. ATKINS 

I see it and read about it more and more every day: the drastic and somewhat alarming decline of hunters in the United States.

Many people try and rationalize it, blaming it on one thing or another. But one thing is for sure: If we don’t do something soon, it will get even worse.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we lost about 2.2 million hunters between 2011 and 2016. USFWS also reported that only 11.5 million Americans hunt, which is only 4 percent of the U.S. population. Most of those are from the baby boomer generation, and using simple math, many of those are about to age out of the sport.

One of the most devastating effects is the loss in revenue that comes from the sale of hunting licenses. Those sales help fund our wildlife agencies. Those funds in turn help with conservation and the overall health of our wildlife populations. Also, with the decline comes the loss in sales from hunting gear. If people aren’t hunting, they’re not buying the gear it takes to actually hunt. Bottom line: A decrease in hunters affects the entire industry.

For me, I thought it was just a phase, similar to how game populations fluctuate over time, but it isn’t and now it is starting to get serious. Many will ask, What can we do to increase hunting numbers? Others stand by and keep doing what they’re doing without any effort in trying to recruit new people to the sport.

I notice it more on social media than anywhere else, where many of the more influential companies and even the so-called professionals stand by and watch, trying to sell the latest and greatest. If something isn’t done soon, there will be nobody to sell anything to.

Hunting has been a rite of passage for Atkins’ family. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

WHAT HAS CAUSED ALL this to happen? As I mentioned, it comes from a variety of circumstances, in my opinion. Many think it’s just a sign of the times. With so many distractions, such as video games, phones and the age of technology, the younger generation just isn’t into hunting anymore.

I’m a teacher and see a great deal of this trend. Kids today would rather stay home, hang out with their friends and play on their phones and Play Stations. It honestly isn’t their fault entirely; it’s just the social media age we live in. Even here in the far north, where hunting is a way of life, I’ve started to see the decline.

I can use my son as an example. To be honest, I wasn’t much different when I was young. I, like many other fathers and grandfathers, took my son everywhere with me when he was young. It might be upriver to hunt caribou or out on the tundra to chase moose and muskox. Occasionally, if his mother didn’t know, we’d even look for bears.

He was glad to be there and shared in the joys and discomforts of the hunting life. Now in his late teens, his interest is elsewhere and he doesn’t really want to go when I ask. I can relate.

I went everywhere with my dad when I was a kid, but when I discovered girls and had the ability to drive, I veered away from hunting. Luckily my father had laid the foundation early and I eventually came back to it.

Time and money are two other factors that have played a major role in the decline, in my opinion, though I’m also guessing that’s not so much the case in some parts of the United States, where heading out to the back 40 for an afternoon hunt is as easy as slipping on your boots and grabbing your bow.

But in places like Alaska, especially here in the Arctic, going out on any hunt can be a major ordeal and takes effort. Hunts here are usually weeklong affairs, or at least long weekends, where the entire family loads up in their boat to go. People just don’t have that kind of time anymore.

USFWS graphic

MONEY IS PROBABLY THE determining factor for how much hunting is done in Alaska, especially with the high price of fuel in most of this rural state. It costs big bucks to go anywhere, which cuts down on trips and, in some cases, no trips at all. I know that it isn’t this way everywhere, but it is reality here. I imagine it happens in other places, where work gets in the way and time and money has other purposes.

Another factor that affects hunter numbers comes in the form of, or the lack of, finding places to hunt. This is especially true in some parts of the Lower 48. When I head back to Oklahoma each year to hunt – and to other states, as well – I see this as one of the biggest deterrents to bringing in new hunters.

There aren’t many places that a person can go and just hunt anymore. In the old days everyone would let you hunt on his or her land if you simply asked permission. It’s not that way anymore. Leasing land for hunting has become all the rage, and it isn’t something new.

You or a group offer money to a landowner, securing the exclusive right to hunt their land. You can’t blame the landowners, especially if they make a living off their land and want to gain some extra income. However, this ties up those places that were often available to those just wanting to hunt. So has hunting become a rich man’s game? Many think so, and in turn we’re seeing a decline in hunter numbers.

Television has also been blamed for the decline. We all love to tune in to the hunting shows and over the years they have been a joy to watch. Heck, I’ve even been a part of many, but what we didn’t realize is that a lot of first timers or those new to hunting watched as well.

Big bucks, big moose and a ton of other monsters are taken each week, if not every day, for the world to see. A first-time hunter or someone wanting to get into the game who sees this may think that’s the way it is for everyone. You buy the latest and greatest gear and head to the woods and you too will kill the biggest and the best. It does happen sometimes, but rarely.

When they don’t succeed, they give up, quit and never go afield again. Now, don’t get me wrong: There are several shows that promote hunting the right way. They educate and really try to do their best to draw in those wanting to get into the hunting life, but there are many who don’t consider that.

Alaska’s hunter ed program is one of the best in the country. Year after year they introduce hundreds if not thousands of young potential hunters to the great outdoors. It’s part of what makes Alaska such a special place. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

THERE ARE OTHER REASONS that I imagine have caused a decline in numbers, but those I’ve mentioned – in my opinion – have had an impact. Hopefully we can come up with new ideas and create new opportunities for those newbies who are maybe on the fence about hunting. We need to remember, though, that recruiting new hunters takes time and isn’t something we can fix overnight, but with a little effort on all our parts we can make a change. And some have.

There are many people and programs out there trying their best to recruit numbers and show hunting in a favorable light, such as Becoming an Outdoors Woman and Field to Fork, the latter of which emphasizes the need for good, quality sustainable food. Along with programs aimed at kids, they all have good intentions. But sometimes they aren’t enough. We need to hit all age groups and both genders.

I’ve always thought that one of the best ways we as hunters could do this is to take somebody hunting who has never been. Introducing them to the great outdoors in a favorable, systematic way can have big dividends in the long run.

If all of us would do this just once we would see change. And it’s a no-brainer, plus it’s a lot of fun, especially after seeing the face of someone who has had success. There is nothing like it.

A long time ago I introduced a group of kids to archery. It was here in the Arctic just after I arrived. I equipped them with long bows and arrows and taught them to shoot. Then, with parental and school permission, we took them out during the winter for a weekend of small game hunting.

The ptarmigan and snowshoe hares were pretty safe and we lost a lot of arrows, but the kids had a blast. Still, even today when I see those kids after 20-plus years, they remind me of how great that weekend was. I ask if they still hunt and most all of them tell me they do. I encourage and challenge all hunters to do something like that.

There are several more prominent programs that I think have had a big impact on bringing in new recruits, if not in hunting than in the shooting sports, which in some ways leads to hunting.

The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) was introduced many years ago.  Young students get bows and arrows and learn to shoot. It has had a big impact, and not just here in Alaska but throughout the entire United States.

It doesn’t matter if your young, old or in between, the sheer joy in seeing someone’s success on their first caribou hunt will have them hooked for life. Getting them back out to hunt would be a great step. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

HUNTER NUMBERS MAY BE on the decline, but there is one area where we are seeing an increase and that is among female hunters. Great programs such as Becoming an Outdoors Woman have had big success and continue to grow. Another area is the desire to harvest your own meat.

The benefit of obtaining an organic, sustainable food source has great value. Many are starting to realize that if they choose to hunt they can fill their freezers, feed their families and relish in the enjoyment of doing so.

So we agree that the stats tell us that there is a decrease. But not unlike game populations that tend to rise and fall, we as current hunters can make a difference if we choose to. With just a little effort, whether by taking a kid hunting or providing some well-earned meat to a neighbor or even a stranger who may have never even thought of hunting, we can have a big impact on the decline.

So, with the new year let’s make a pledge, do our part and make a difference. ASJ

Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He’s written hundreds of articles published on big game hunting throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a regular contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal.

Tickets For SCI Alaska Banquet Now Available

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska chapter of Safari Club International:

SCI Alaska Chapter is excited to announce that we have implemented a few new changes to our 2020 44th Annual banquet that we hope will create a lot of excitement and we want to offer tickets to our previous banquet attendees before promoting ticket purchases to the general public. Tickets are going fast and so far we have sold 30% of our banquet capacity and we are well on our way to another sold out event.

Our  goal is to stay true to the standard banquet platform we have all enjoyed for many years, while introducing a few changes that will provide opportunities for young sportsman and women that cannot afford to purchase one of our live auction hunts or simply cannot afford the time away from work or family to travel.

Secondly we want to focus our best efforts towards bringing you a great banquet, so we are limiting sales to 450 tickets on Friday Night and 750 Tickets on Saturday Night.  No additional seats will be added. So please get your tickets now, while they are still available!

With that said, we are introducing 3 Big Raffles for either a gear package or a hunt of a lifetime. We will also closeout our banquet on Saturday night with a great local live band “Nothin But Trouble” for those of you who wish to stay and join us in a great after party celebration. These raffles include:

  1. The SCI AK Chapters Apex Predator gear package filled with proven Alaska Tough gun, gear and optics valued at over $13,000.
  2. A New Mexico All-Inclusive Trophy Elk Hunt with Joe Graham of Grahams Guide Service. This is a private ranch (no fence) all wild hunt which includes landowner tags, taxes and license. 
  3. Saving The Best For Last:  The Kodiak Island Brown Bear Governors Tag Raffle (residents only). Unquestionably the best brown bear tag ever offered!  Tickets for this raffle will only be sold At The Banquet. The winner does not need to be present to win.
  • The lucky winner of this raffle will have their choice of hunting either the Fall of 2020 or the Spring of 2021 in any one of the following permit areas DB201 through DB293, with the exception of DB215 and DB245 ( the Sturgeon River) and they will have their choice  of any one of the most coveted brown bear hunting areas in Alaska. Aliulik Peninsula, Deadman Bay, Red Lake, Frasier Lake and Zachar Bay areas with drawing odds that are less than 1% are all included in the permit.

Tickets to our 44th Annual Alaskan Hunting Expo & Sportsman’s Banquet, that will be held on February 28th & 29th, 2020 at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska are on sale and currently available online. Tickets can be purchased at any of the following links.

SCI Alaska Chapter Website: https://aksafariclub.org/  Same address, but an all new website. Shop, join/renew membership or login to your SCI profile all from one location.

American Heroes’ Night Banquet February 28th, 2020https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=108619

Alaskan Sportsman’s Banquet February 29th, 2020: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=108621

There you have it my friend,  just enough change to add some excitement. We will still be true to our longstanding format, which really focuses on presenting a great live auction, wall of guns, table raffles and silent auctions.  A banquet that is filled with great opportunities. A banquet that has something for everyone!

 So get your tickets now! Come and join us for another great celebration of our Outdoor Lifestyle!

 Please feel free to contact me anytime, if you have any questions or need help purchasing tickets!

 

Man And Dog Stranded 23 Days In Frigid Alaska Wilderness Rescued

 

Much like Tom Hanks in Castaway (above) – substituting a snowy Alaska wilderness area to  Hanks’ tropical deserted isalnd – Tyson Steele did what he could in the hopes someone would find him after his remote cabin burned.

Here’s more from the Washington Post:

It had happened suddenly, in the middle of the night on Dec. 17 or 18 — he lost track of the days, according to a detailed news release and interview with Steele published by the Alaska State Troopers. The 30-year-old homesteader from Utah made what he called a “hasty mistake”: He threw a large piece of cardboard into his wood stove fire. It sent sparks up through the chimney — and then, as he slept, the sparks landed on the plastic roof, Steele explained in his interview with authorities.

“It’s 1 or 2 in the morning, and I’d been awakened to a cold cabin, right?” Steele told the troopers. “… And drip, drip, drip — there’s fiery drips of plastic coming through the roof above me. So I go outside … and I just see that the whole roof’s on fire.”

 

That was how his 23 days trapped in rural Alaska began, as Steele scrambled to save what he could, watching almost his entire livelihood burst into flames. For three weeks, Steele would huddle in a snow cave and next to the remains of his wood stove, subsisting on canned rations — until finally, on Thursday, troopers from the Alaska Department of Public Safety rescued him.

The story is a fascinating read of how Steele (and his dog) survived the ordeal. Relieved that they are OK.

 

 

Discovery Channel Takes “Man” Into The Bear’s Lair

Photos by Discovery Channel

The following appears in the January issue of Alaska Sporting Journal: 

BY CHRIS COCOLES

Like boxers trying to psyche out each other before meeting in the ring, they made eye contact with one another.

At one end, the 1,400-pound “king of the mountain” was calm, collected and seemingly ho-hum about what was to transpire. Twenty-two feet above, on the edge of a rickety dirt bridge and attached to a rope, is a 138-pound challenger – heart pounding, repeating, “OK. OK. I’m ready. I’m ready.”

The 1,400-pounder grabs his end of the rope and a most unlikely tug-of-war lasts 28 terrifying seconds before the smaller competitor is yanked off the bridge and dumped hard – face first – into the water.

Chrissi, a 31-year-old marathoner, Army veteran and pediatric nurse from New Jersey, emerges from the pond. She’s a bit shell-shocked, out of breath but relatively unscathed after taking on 19-year-old Bart, one of three grizzlies that were rescued as orphans and are now living in a Utah sanctuary.

If you’re curious about what would happen if human beings attempted to match up with one of the world’s apex predators, then Discovery Channel’s new series Man Vs. Bear has you covered (check out a new episode on Saturday night). The show features the three bears and the athletic Goldilocks taking on the bruins in challenges that range from the men and women pushing an 800-pound rolling log against Bart to an eating contest with a menu of typical ursine cuisine that Tank, a third bear at Doug and Lynne Seus’ sanctuary, prefers, to a makeshift obstacle course race with Honey Bump chasing from behind.

Casey Anderson, a bear biologist and filmmaker who provides analysis on the show, agreed to be a part of this project to, he hopes, educate the public.

“I’m representing the voice of the bears. I’m talking about what these bears are doing in their instinctual ways – their natural behavior. I’m giving anecdotes and analogies about what you’re seeing there and how it would apply in the wild,” Anderson says. “That’s what’s important for the show.”

Bart, a veteran of several appearances on the big screen, is the unquestioned star of the show. “(Siblings) Bart and (Honey) Bump in particular have an amazing backstory, and all three of the bears have such distinct and interesting personalities,” says Discovery Channel executive Joseph Boyle. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Bear shot

THE MEN AND WOMEN – three per episode – who challenge the bears are without a doubt elite athletes who hold their own against their competitors. But make no mistake about who are the stars of Man Vs. Bear.

“Bart and Honey Bump were rescued by an Alaska State Trooper,” Anderson says. “Now they’re getting to be rock stars on the Discovery Channel. And that’s pretty cool.”

The bears’ caretakers, Doug and Lynne Seus, have a history of raising similar bears on their Utah ranch. Their first, also named Bart, was adopted in 1977 from a zoo and starred in several films, including The Great OutdoorsThe Edge and Legends of the Fall.

After the original Bart died in 2000, Bart the Bear 2 and Honey Bump joined the Seus family from Alaska. The new Bart has become an A-lister in his own right, sharing the screen with Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), Steve Carrell (Evan Almighty) and Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo). Honey Bump and Tank also have film credits to their names.

“The original Bart the Bear was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood as far as animal actors go. And (the Seuses) brought these two siblings in, raised them, loved them like family,” Anderson says. “And they’re awesome and just having a great time doing what bears do in a unique and cool way.”

Which brings up the backlash the Discovery Channel and the showrunners were sure to get about the idea that the bears could be exploited as circus performers for the enjoyment of the audience.

“I think, first and foremost, we want to engage, surprise, and, of course, entertain the audience … but do it in a way that is uniquely Discovery,” says Joseph Boyle, senior vice president of production and development at Discovery Channel. “Discovery is always looking for ways to transport our audience into new worlds, and in many cases, help people experience and fall in love with the natural world and animals, and ultimately, learn more about them.”

Each episode starts with a disclaimer that the bears were rescued as orphaned cubs and could not survive if released in the wild. Man Vs. Bear also reminds that “Events are designed around the bears’ natural behaviors and play, and are supervised by Movie Animals Protected, providing the highest levels of animal safety and well-being.”

“In the series, we treat the bears like the stars of the show – because for us, that’s who they are,” Boyle adds. “Throughout every episode there is a ton of information about bears and bear behavior, but also information about each of the bears as individuals. Bart and Bump in particular have an amazing backstory, and all three bears have such distinct and interesting personalities. Once we started to get to know Bart, Bump and Tank and learn the things they like to do for play and exercise, it became the backbone of what the challenges would eventually be.”

That’s where the bruin expert Anderson comes in and puts the bear in Man Vs. Bear.

Bear expert Casey Anderson (left, with co-host Brandon Tierney) says the bears consider the competition events more fun, but there are times when even their competitive juices are flowing. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Brandon and Casey in front of entrance

FROM THE TIME CASEY Anderson adopted a grizzly cub of his own shortly after graduating from college – Brutus, who was in danger of being euthanized from the wildlife park he resided at – this native Montanan has been something of a bear whisperer. He’s also spent plenty of time studying bears in Alaska, most notably when he spent two months living in a tent at Katmai National Park and Preserve.

His experiences in Alaska as a Lower 48 bear expert have taught Anderson a lot about the notion that, like you and me, all bears are not cut from the same mold.

“Part of something (different) about bears is that they’re so visual and kind of a product of how they grow up and how they experience life,” Anderson says.

“In Yellowstone (National Park), you encounter a grizzly bear and the fight or flight response of a bear is, you’re much more apt to get in a fight here. Bears are going to run away most of the time, but (in the Lower 48) they’re a little more hard-core ghetto. They’ve had a hard life and have been fighting with humans and wolves and things constantly down here.”

Contrast that with what Anderson gathered from his time spying bears in Alaska. He joked that many Alaska bears might as well be living the good life in an ursine version of Miami’s posh South Beach. “Chill” was one adjective he had for the bears’ disposition.

“They don’t have the lush salmon runs and all that stuff that some parts of Alaska do. It’s like the bears in Katmai; they are fat, happy bears and just in a different state of mind. They have an easy life,” he says. “At Katmai you can have a bear walk two feet away from you and not even give you a second look. You’re not even afraid of it. It’s because you look at it and they don’t even care about you at all.”

During his time cohosting Man Vs. Bear with play-by-play announcer and sportscaster Brandon Tierney in Utah, Anderson got to know Honey Bump, Tank and Bart. And in turn he discovered three very different personalities. “As different as you and me,” he says.

And that’s what has made his a rather extraordinary career studying these iconic predators. Anderson has been lucky enough to take visual, mental and written notes to himself in both Alaska and in areas closer to his Montana roots.

“Because they are very different in different places, you’ll see different things in Alaska than you’ll see from bears in Montana. But you’ll also see different things from bears in Denali than you would in Kodiak. You see different types of cultures. They all kind of grow up in a certain way and act a certain way. And they’ll react in specific ways for each of their cultures,” he says. “You start thinking about bears having cultures? It sounds ridiculous about something of a characteristic that we would give them. But you know what? It’s true. I guess all that does is open up your mind more to learn and realize that you’re sharing a planet with animals that are much more dynamic than we give them credit for.”

“Bart is representing the species. He’s 1,400 pounds and just a beast. And he’s having fun showing humans that they’re the top species of the competition,” Anderson says. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Eric during log challenge

WHEN YOU WATCH THE big animals engage with their human opponents on Man Vs. Bear, it will likely dawn on you to wonder if Bart is simply playing or really firing himself up to take down that fearless man or woman on the other end of the rope.

But if you buy into what the show’s bruin savant is selling, it’s probably not a predictable answer. Like the bears themselves, it’s a complicated analysis. Take the event known as Brute Force, when the contestants attempt to roll those heavy logs as fast as they can until Bart pushes a heavier one to his personal finish line.

Give the competitors credit for being athletic and brave enough to at least hold their own. But more often than not it’s the bruins dominating these games of both strength and skill. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

“I would say when (Bart’s) pushing a barrel, that is more of a playful thing, a game. He’s always kind of throwing his head around, and he knew he was going to get a reward if he could complete that course and get the barrel down the line,” says Anderson, who also noticed a bit of a change to Bart’s demeanor when yanking that rope against Chrissi, who beat the two men competing against her and has a chance to make the grand finale at the end of the season.

Bart struck a chord with Anderson when whoever was on the other end of the rope would “talk trash” and the bear began to reach for his side and started to pull.

“He would really pull hard and roar and scream. And you could see the switch in Bart; he’s like, ‘Oh, you want to play?’ And he’s gone in competition mode,” Anderson says. “It was almost this game of possession. ‘Wait a minute, dudes. This is my rope. I’m gonna take it.’ And you’d see this whole different level of energy. And you wouldn’t want to be at that end of that state of mind.”

But the bears? They’re all in for these challenges.

“Bart is representing the species. He’s 1,400 pounds and just a beast. And he’s having fun showing humans that they’re the top species of the competition,” Anderson says.

And for the humans – both the ones who take on the bears and those of us watching safely from our couches?

“For me, the only reason I signed up is I get the chance to talk to (an audience) that does not necessarily watch wildlife documentaries,” Anderson says. “And maybe they’ll learn something about bears. And that’s important. We’re not going to be preaching to the choir. We’re going to be talking to (new) people and maybe recruiting and getting them excited about wild places and wild things.” ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Man Vs. Bear can be seen on Saturday nights on the Discovery Channel (check local listings). For more, check out discovery.com/shows/man-vs-bear. Follow Casey Anderson on Twitter (@GrizAnderson). The bears of Man Vs. Bear are also on Twitter (@BartTheBear3).  

 

NWF: House Should Approve Hunting/Fishing Bill

The following press release is courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation: 

House Should Swiftly Pass Bipartisan Hunting, Fishing, Wildlife Conservation Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 9, 2020) — The U.S. House of Representatives should swiftly pass the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, following the U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage today of the bipartisan bill, which includes multiple hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation priorities. The bill, introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), would be another significant win for wildlife and sportsmen and sportswomen nationwide.

“At a time when one-third of wildlife species are at heightened risk of extinction and lawmakers struggle to agree on anything, the Senate is again showing that conservation can bring our leaders together to achieve real progress — and we thank Chair Barrasso and Senator Carper for their incredible leadership. The House should follow suit and pass these common-sense, bipartisan investments to restore wildlife populations and conserve our outdoor heritage,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The ACE Act confronts systemic challenges facing wildlife by restoring essential wildlife habitat like wetlands and the Chesapeake Bay, fighting Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk, and removing invasive species. While we still have much more work to do, this is an important victory for bipartisan solutions that the House should swiftly affirm.

“This bill’s passage is a testament to its bipartisan co-sponsors — Senators John Boozman, Ben Cardin, Kevin Cramer, Tammy Duckworth, James Inhofe, Shelley Moore Capito and Chris Van Hollen — as well as the leadership of lawmakers like Senator Martin Heinrich.”

The ACE Act will:

  • Establish a Chronic Wasting Disease task force to develop an interstate action plan for state and federal cooperation relating to the disease;
  • Commission a study by the National Academy of Sciences regarding the pathways and mechanisms of the transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease in the United States;
  • Reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act until 2025;
  • Encourage partnerships among public agencies and other interested parties for promoting fish conservation;
  • Reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program until 2025;
  • Reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program until 2025;
  • Reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act until 2025;
  • Establish a program to provide grants to states and Indian tribes to compensate livestock producers for losses due to predation by federally protected species such as wolves or grizzly bears; and,
  • Establish a Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize for technological innovation to reduce human-predator conflict using non-lethal means.

Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.

***

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly-changing world. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Eastside Cook Inlet Closures For Personal-Use, Sport Clamming

Eastside Cook Inlet Beaches Remain Closed to Personal Use Clamming

(Homer) – All eastside Cook Inlet beaches remain closed to personal use clamming in 2020 because any harvested razor clams will likely delay recovery of the population. The closure is effective 12:01 a.m. Friday, January 3 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, December 31, 2020. The closure prohibits the taking of any clam species from the mouth of the Kenai River to the southernmost tip of the Homer Spit.

From 2009–2015, eastside Cook Inlet razor clams experienced poor recruitment of juvenile sized razor clams and a high natural mortality rate of adult sized razor clams, both of which resulted in a significant decline in abundance leading to the closure of the fishery. In 2019, adult razor clam abundances did not improve and remained below average at Ninilchik and Clam Gulch beaches. Causes of the decline in razor clam abundance remains unknown, but may include a combination of heavy surf, habitat changes, environmental stressors, and predation. Eastside Cook Inlet razor clam populations are rebuilding, but it is uncertain if the trend will continue into 2020.

“Razor clam studies will be conducted again in the spring of 2020 on Ninilchik and Clam Gulch beaches,” stated Area Management Biologist Mike Booz. “Results will be used to assess potential harvest opportunity after adult abundances are available in late May.”

This closure does not affect personal use razor clam regulations on westside Cook Inlet beaches.

Eastside Cook Inlet Beaches Remain Closed to Sport Clamming

(Homer) – All eastside Cook Inlet beaches remain closed to sport clamming in 2020 because any harvested razor clams will likely delay recovery of the population. The closure is effective 12:01 a.m. Friday, January 3 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, December 31, 2020. The closure prohibits the taking of any clam species from the mouth of the Kenai River to the southernmost tip of the Homer Spit.

From 2009–2015, eastside Cook Inlet razor clams experienced poor recruitment of juvenile sized razor clams and a high natural mortality rate of adult sized razor clams, both of which resulted in a significant decline in abundance leading to the closure of the fishery. In 2019, adult razor clam abundances did not improve and remained below average at Ninilchik and Clam Gulch beaches. Causes of the decline in razor clam abundance remains unknown, but may include a combination of heavy surf, habitat changes, environmental stressors, and predation. Eastside Cook Inlet razor clam populations are rebuilding, but it is uncertain if the trend will continue into 2020.

“Razor clam studies will be conducted again in the spring of 2020 on Ninilchik and Clam Gulch beaches,” stated Area Management Biologist Mike Booz. “Results will be used to assess potential harvest opportunity after adult abundances are available in late May.”

This closure does not affect sport razor clam regulations on westside Cook Inlet beaches.

They Said It: The Best Soundbites Of 2019

Happy New Year! And, to be more specific, Happy New Decade. Welcome to the 2020s, folks. Before we usher in a new decade, here’s to the best quotes of 2019 as the 2010s fade into memory:

Photo by Billy Molls

• Hunting guide and TV host Billy Molls (January) on getting his clients on an Alaskan animal of a lifetime: “I’m not so much about getting a 28-year-old kid who’s an ultra-marathon runner a Dall sheep. I want to get one for that 65-year-old man with two artificial knees who worked his full life so he can finally afford to go on his dream hunt. This guy’s only got one climb up the mountain, so he’s got to make it count.”

Photo by Ashley Wallace

• Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Ashley Wallace (February) on the experiences she had sharing the outdoors with her husband Branson, also a Coast Guard petty officer, on Kodiak Island (the couple has since transferred for duty in Louisiana): “You fly out to this island and you forget all the problems of the Lower 48. I feel at peace in Kodiak. I’ve never felt so much a part of a community as I have here.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Zerra

• Survivalist Laura Zerra (March) on her experience in the snow of Alaska participating on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid: “There were a lot of times when walking through the snowdrift and we’re cutting up our feet, you had to laugh. Because it’s so absurd and so crazy, I thought a lot about my life and said, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why on earth are we doing this?’”

Photo by Chris Cocoles

• Gwich’in Native Bernadette Demientieff (April) on her people’s fight to prevent oil drilling near Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: “We very much still live off of our land, and we honor our tradition and our way of life. It’s been a really tough fight and a battle, because I feel like I’m trying to convince people that we matter.”

Photo by Paul D. Atkins

• Writer Paul Atkins (June) on some of the dangerous Alaska situations he’s faced while hunting: “As you can imagine, I’ve endured a lot of close calls. These were times when I wished I was anywhere but the place I was in. Trips so bad you’d swear out loud that you would never do it again, only to do it again the following year. Crazy, right?”

Photo by Elyse Saugstad

• Alaskan pro skier and outdoorswoman Elyse Saugstad (July) on the Last Frontier lifestyle that shaped her life: “For me, I can’t even really point a finger where I fell in love with the mountains because I fell in love so young. I was feeling like I wanted to be a skier. Kids want to be astronauts or firemen, but I wanted to be a skier.”

Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen

• From Field to Fire writer Scott Haugen (October) on a memorable black bear hunt with a first-time Alaska hunter: “There we sat atop a remote Alaskan mountain and admired one of the most spectacular views on the planet. There were also two bears only a few yards apart from one another.”

Photo courtesy of Tom Walker

• Author Tom Walker (October) about how the area around his home near Denali National Park has changed throughout the 50-plus years he’s lived in Alaska: “To love some terrain so much and see it change so much in a negative way, it has been difficult. Climate change is very real and to watch the effects on the wildlife and plants that have evolved over millennia is difficult. Here in the Far North, the concept is not abstract but a real ongoing process that people who look to nature can readily see and experience.”

Photo by Steve Meyer

• Former ASJ correspondent Christine Cunningham (November), featured in the book Why Women Hunt, on  conservation: “We have a civic duty and obligation because wildlife is held in the public trust. We can’t shirk it – the future of hunting relies on our ability to show this connection, and it isn’t about being badass, elite, athletic, or even entitled because of our conservation dollars.”

I had to leave off several more, but here’s to you, 2019. -Chris Cocoles 

Southeast Alaska King Salmon Regulations For 2020 (Update)

The following is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Current Southeast Alaska Regional King Salmon Sport Fishing Regulations For 2020

(Juneau) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reminding anglers that the 2020 sport fishing regulations for king salmon in Southeast Alaska and Yakutat remain unchanged except that the resident bag limit of two king salmon has expired and the bag limit for all anglers is one king salmon. The following regulations will be effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, January 1, 2020:

  • Alaskan Resident (All Southeast Marine Waters)
    • The resident bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length.
  • Nonresident
    • The nonresident bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
    • From January 1 through June 30, the annual limit is three king salmon 28 inches or greater in length;
    • From July 1 through December 31, the annual limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length, and any king salmon harvested from January 1 through June 30 will apply toward the one fish annual limit;
    • Immediately upon landing and retaining a king salmon a nonresident must enter the species, date and location, in ink, on the back of their sport fishing license or on a nontransferable harvest record.

Under the Southeast Alaska King Salmon Management Plan regional king salmon sport fish bag and possession limits and any other management measures are based upon the Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE. As mandated by the plan, king salmon regulations will be based on the previous Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE until the current years Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE is finalized. Since the 2020 Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE will not be finalized until later in 2020, Southeast Alaska sport fish king salmon regulations will be set using the 2019 Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE until the 2020 Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE is available. Once the 2020 Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE is finalized the department will announce regulatory changes mandated by the plan.

For further information regarding sport fisheries in Southeast Alaska, contact the nearest ADF&G office or visit: www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/EONR/index.cfm?ADFG=area.R1

Juneau Area Section 11-A Remains Closed To Sport And Personal Use Pot Shrimp Fishing In 2020

(Juneau) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the sport and personal use (PU) pot shrimp fisheries in the Juneau area will remain closed until further notice. The closed area consists of all marine waters of Section 11-A (see attached map) north and west of a line extending from a regulatory marker near Point Bishop at 58o 12.32′ N. lat., 134o 10.14′ W long., to the Coast Guard marker and light on Point Arden at 58o 09.55′ N. lat., 134o 10.68′ W. long., south of the latitude of Little Island Light at 58o 32.41′ N. lat., and east of a line from Little Island Light to Point Retreat Light.

Due to declining commercial fishery catch per unit of effort (CPUE) indicating low spot shrimp abundance in Section 11-A, the commercial, sport, and personal use fisheries were closed July 1, 2013 to allow the shrimp population in this area to rebuild. Creel census data from 2003–2007 indicated that the PU/sport fishery harvests were approximately equal to commercial harvests during this time. Therefore, closure of all pot fisheries that harvest spot shrimp in this area are necessary to rebuild the population.

The intention of these closures is to allow spot shrimp abundance to rebound to a sustainable level. The department will continue to monitor the Section 11-A shrimp resource. The personal use and sport pot fisheries will remain closed until data indicates spot shrimp abundance can again sustain harvests.

The department has conducted surveys of the area in the 2017/2018, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 seasons to gather data on spot shrimp abundance, and there is not a harvestable surplus available.

Sport and personal use pot shrimp fishing closed (dark shaded area) in Juneau Section 11-A for 2020.

For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Daniel Teske at (907) 465-8152.

Juneau Area Section 11-A Remains Closed To Sport And Personal Use Pot Shrimp Fishing In 2020

Update:

Southeast Alaska Nonpelagic Rockfish Closure For 2020

(Juneau) – Today the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that the retention of nonpelagic rockfish will be prohibited during 2020. The following regulations are effective 12:01 a.m. January 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021:

All Southeast Waters

  • No retention of nonpelagic rockfish.
  • All vessels must have at least one functional deepwater release mechanism on board and readily available for use when sport fishing activities are taking place. Persons sport fishing in marine waters when releasing rockfish (pelagic or nonpelagic), must use a deepwater release mechanism to return the fish to the depth it was hooked or to a depth of at least 100 feet.

Despite conservative management action yelloweye rockfish biomass (used as an indicator for all nonpelagic rockfish) has decreased 60% in the last 20 years and potential impacts on the reproductive potential of the population and future recruitment of juvenile rockfish. Nonpelagic rockfish are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation and are slow to recover once fished below sustainable levels given their longevity, slow growth, late maturation, and high site-fidelity, with yelloweye rockfish reaching an estimated maximum age of 122 years and maturing at 18–22 years. Restrictive management actions in the Southeast Alaska nonpelagic rockfish sport fishery need to be taken to ensure the sustainability of these stocks. Mandatory release at depth will ensure that most released nonpelagic rockfish will survive. Based on research studies, the department estimates that proper use of release devices reduces mortality of nonpelagic rockfish by over 95%.

For further information, contact the nearest ADF&G office or visit: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishregulations.se_sportfish

Happy Holidays: Here Are Some Amazing Polar Bears From An Awesome New Book!

Photos by Michel Rawicki in Kaktovik, Barrier Island, Alaska.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Here’s an interview and some of the majestic photos from a great new book from Frenchman Michel Rawicki that appears in our December issue:

By Chris Cocoles 

Frenchman Michel Rawicki was influenced a couple ways as a youngster and then an adult – first by photography, and then by the Arctic and those humans and its wildlife living there.

“We have so much to learn from the observation of nature. When it speaks to us privately, it is a source of wonder and gives us a strong feeling of belonging to the universe,” Rawicki writes in a new book of 200 stunning images he compiled in a three-year odyssey spying the polar bear – known by the Inuit people in Alaska and throughout the Arctic as Nanuk – from the Last Frontier to Siberia and from Norway to Greenland.

“It was the moment to publish a book which throws light on the reality of the situation of the polar bear today, but it is first and foremost a homage to the polar bear’s beauty and its poetry,” he writes.

“Let’s protect all kinds of wildlife and nature, as we are part of it,” Rawicki, 69, said in an email Q&A when we asked about the polar bears he observed and other great big game predators around the globe, many of which are threatened, endangered or on the brink of extinction due to a variety of factors, including climate change.

In the following pages, Rawicki shares his infatuation with icy landscapes and fascination with one of the world’s most graceful, feared and iconic species. The photos are courtesy of Polar Bears: A Life Under Threat, by Michel Rawicki and published by ACC Art Books.

 

Chris Cocoles Congratulations on a fantastic book, Michel. What inspired you to take on this particular project?

Michel Rawicki My intimate relationship with this animal, a symbol of global warming and totem of the 21st century.

CC Growing up in France you had a passion for photography. Did you get to take photos of a lot of wildlife specifically or just scenery and people in general?

MW I started my career in 1969 and I quit college to work with Claude Lelouch, famous filmmaker [who won one Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film and was nominated for Best Director] as an assistant. Then, I worked as a “people” photographer in the show business area and photographed Tina Turner and Tom Jones. Then I worked as a still-life photographer for 15 years and discovered Greenland and its icebergs in 1992, and also (discovered) the polar bears in those same years.

Author and photographer Michel Rawicki. (MICHEL RAWICKI)

CC What did you know about polar bears before starting this journey?

MW I was just fascinated by the animals and then learned and wanted to know more about them!

CC Later in life, you became fascinated with icy locations and snow. How did that impact your career in photography?

MW I was attracted from my childhood by icy landscapes, and at this time I discovered Greenland. I had always dreamed of witnessing the birth of the icebergs, these ice monsters, and discover Ilulissat (Greenland) and the Bay of Disko, the biggest iceberg distributor in the Northern Hemisphere. I was overwhelmed and fascinated by this natural power. (I wanted to) share my love of the poles and raise awareness as to the fact that the conservation of this fragile immense space concerns each and every one of us on a daily basis.

CC What’s the closest you’ve come to a polar bear?

MW A few meters, but I didn’t know he was behind me. I realized it after I discovered his footprints 30 minutes later.

CC Tell me about your experience with the bears in Alaska?

MW It was such an amazing atmosphere in Kaktovik on Barter Island with this number of bears wandering around the “bone pile” and seeing all the whales’ carcasses.

CC Did you get an opportunity to talk to any Alaskans and what was that overall experience like for you?

MW No, but I plan to travel over there some day.

I focus my work now on humans such as natives around the polar circle.

CC So you really enjoyed your time there and want to go back and experience more of the rugged and beautiful landscapes, plus the diverse wildlife?

MW Yessss!

 

CC And worldwide, did you have a favorite place in all of your travels when photographing the bears?

MW Of course. Svalbard, Norway, and Manitoba, Canada.

CC Is there something that you learned about polar bears that surprised you?

MW Yes; their fantastic capacity to adapt themselves to the changing (conditions), like getting on a rock at low tide and wait for belugas when [there’s]enough water to catch them.

CC What do you see in the future for polar bears given the threats of climate change and the perception that the Arctic’s glaciers are melting and habitat for these bears is getting smaller?

MW Today the population is stable, even growing but tomorrow, who knows?

CC After this adventure, is there another species or project similar to this one that you would like to pursue?

MW Yes, of course. I will still travel and meet Nanuk again, as I will travel next year as a guide in Svalbard on a ship named Polarfront. Also, I am now very focused on a third book dedicated to all these people who live in the “cold.” These are the nomads who are taking care of their cattle like reindeer – from Norway with the Sami to Mongolia with the Tsataan and Russia, of course, with the (indigenous) Evene, Nenetses and Dolgan people. ASJ

Editor’s note: Order a copy of Polar Bears: A Life Under Threat on Amazon and also at accartbooks.com/us/store/pv/9781788840422/polar-bears/
michel-rawicki. For more on photographer Michel Rawicki, go to his website,
michelrawicki.com, and follow him on Instagram (@michelrawicki).