Kenai brown bear controversy still “bruin”

The contentious battle between the state of Alaska and federal authorities over the Kenai Peninsula’s brown bear population pertaining to hunting continues to be, well, contentious. In the December issue of Alaska Sporting Journal, we ran a story about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s controversial decision to shut down brown bear hunting on what was then deemed a temporary basis. Needless to say, the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife was not happy with the decision.

Now there is talk of placing limitations on brown bear hunts for the 2014 season, which should guarantee no egg nog will be shared come Christmas between state and federal fish and wildlife personnel.

Here’s an Anchorage Daily News update on the subject, which includes this line from reporter Lisa Demer: “It’s a classic Alaska fight that pits the state against the federal government and big game hunters against wildlife watchers.”

Here’s from her piece:

The total number of Kenai brown bears killed this year is 69, more than one out of every 10 on the Peninsula, he said. That counts those hunted legally, hunted illegally, killed in defense of life or property, killed by authorities as nuisance or dangerous bears, and hit by vehicles, he said. An additional 70th bear may also have been killed, he said, though the state has not yet confirmed that.

“So it’s an enormous jump in bear take,” Morton said.

At that rate, the entire Kenai brown bear population has a 33 percent chance of being wiped out in 25 years, he said. In just a few years the number would drop below 500, which is considered “evolutionary not viable,” Morton said.

For the spring 2014 hunt, the Alaska Board of Game is further loosening the rules for Kenai brown bears. It will allow them to be hunted over bear “bait stations” used to lure in black bears, which are far more prevalent and valued by some as a food source.

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