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Alaska Man Stunned By Polar Bear He Killed Far From Animals’ Range

Eric Regehr/USFWS

Polar bears’ Alaska range is rather limited, according to this Alaska Department of Fish and Game map:

ADFG

Conservation group Polar Bears International says the bears do have a tendency to leave their habitat:

“Scientists believe that most polar bears limit travel to home ranges of a few hundred miles. However, they know of one satellite-tracked female that trekked 4,796 kilometers —from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay to Greenland to Canada’s Ellesmere Island and back to Greenland.”

Still, it’s rare in Alaska to see polar bears away from where you can usually spot them: In the remore areas of the northern tip of the state. So it’s understandable that an Alaska man was shocked to see a polar bear – considered one of the world’s most dangerous predators –  attempting to enter his cabin. Here’s more on an incident that left the bear dead from the Associated Press via the Anchorage Daily News: 

“My dog barked, and the bear was on my back, right behind me. And I jumped back inside, grabbed my rifle,” Hollandsworth said. “By time I got turned around, it was heading for the door, the open door. Wanted to come in. So they got shot point-blank right there at the doorstep.” …

The bear was shot more than 100 miles south of the Beaufort Sea coastline. He said the animals usually stay within a few miles of the coast, except for some pregnant females who may go farther inland to build dens.

Regehr said it’s hard to say why a bear wandered so far from its range.

 

 

USE OF UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ON DNA IN SALMON MONITORING COULD RESULT IN SAVINGS FOR STATE

 

The following press release is courtesy of the University of Alaska Southeast:

JUNEAU — Each year wild salmon return to the streams in which they were born to spawn and die. Salmon fishery managers must ensure that adequate numbers of fish return each year to spawn and produce offspring for future harvest.  It is expensive and labor intensive to count returning salmon, especially in remote streams.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Southeast, Auke Bay Laboratories, Oregon State University, the UK and China have found that salmon DNA collected in water samples from Auke Creek can be used to infer the number of salmon passing upstream to spawn. Two of the authors on the published paper who contributed to the research are former UAS Biology students now in graduate school, Josh Russell and Donovan Bell.  Russell is currently enrolled in the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences program, and Bell is in the biology graduate program at the University of Montana.

This form of DNA, termed “environmental DNA” or “eDNA”, can be collected from water samples.  Water samples are then filtered and probed using molecular genetic techniques to quantify the amount of DNA belonging to each salmon species, providing insights into the number of salmon upstream.

In this study, salmon entering Auke Creek were counted by hand by UAS undergraduates and National Marine Fisheries Service employees.  Water samples were then collected from Auke Creek and the eDNA from coho and sockeye salmon in water samples was quantified to see whether it predicted the number of hand-counted salmon.

The researchers report in a paper just published in Molecular Ecology Resources that simple models combining eDNA counts and stream flow accurately detected pulses in coho and sockeye salmon as they migrated upstream to spawn.  The upshot for salmon management in Alaska is that eDNA collection from water samples may provide a cheap means to track the abundance of salmon returning to spawn in creeks where other survey methods are logistically challenging or prohibitively expensive. This method of monitoring salmon runs could save the State of Alaska a great deal of money over existing methods.  Future efforts will be directed at determining whether these findings hold in locations beyond Auke Creek.

For more information about Biology & Marine Biology programs at UAS visit uas.alaska.edu/apply/programs/biology-marine-biology or call (907) 796-6100.

Alaska Guide Pleads Guilty To Charges Of Herding Bears For Clients

Apologies for not sharing this news sooner, but earlier this month a Fairbanks hunting guide pleaded guilty to charges he tried to herd bears closer to his clients on remote Alaska hunts. Among the man’s sentence was forfeiting his master guide’s license for life:

Here’s more from the Associated Press:

Brian Simpson of Fairbanks, operating as Wittrock Outfitters, also was fined $35,000 and sentenced to a year of probation Thursday in Nome District Court. He also was ordered to pay $2,600 in restitution for the killing of two grizzly bears.

In a plea deal, Simpson pleaded guilty to two counts of “aiding in the commission of a violation” for using his employees to turn bears toward his hunting clients. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of guiding within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, where hunting is allowed but guiding without a federal permit is not. 

The illegal actions took place on the Seward Peninsula north of Nome.

 

 

 

 

Study: Alaska Mismanaging Predator Control

Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia

A new study from Oregon State University suggests Alaska’s wildlife officials are mismanaging programs to control predators such as bears and wolves.

Here’s a little more from Oregon TV station KTVZ: 

“Gray wolves, brown bears and black bears are managed in most of Alaska in ways designed to significantly lower their numbers,” said study co-author William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Alaska is unique in the world because these management priorities are both widespread and legally mandated.”

The paper notes that favoritism toward moose, caribou and deer over large carnivores acquired legal backing in Alaska with the 1994 passage of the state’s Intensive Management Law. The legislation effectively calls for cutbacks in big carnivores to increase how many hoofed game animals are taken by humans.

“The law does also identify habitat management as a form of intensive management, but habitat management hasn’t been used effectively as a tool to increase abundance of these ungulates,” said corresponding author Sterling Miller, a retired research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Therefore, the default tool is predator control, the most widespread form of which is liberalizing state hunting and trapping regulations for large carnivores. This liberalization has been most extreme for brown bears, as this species used to be managed very conservatively.”

Here’s a passage from OSU’s study:

Science-based management of large carnivores in most of Alaska will require the political will and wisdom to repeal Alaska’s Intensive Management law. Alternatively or additionally, it will require professional wildlife managers to resist adoption of predator reduction regulations that are not conducted as experiments and/or do not include adequate monitoring programs of both carnivores and ungulates; this was a key recommendation in the 1997 report of National Research Council [5]. Furthermore, in Alaska and other states, the U.S. Department of the Interior needs to meet its legal mandate to manage for natural and healthy ecosystems in ways that are in the national interest. In Alaska, this will require not aligning hunting and trapping regulations on National Park Preserves and National Wildlife Refuges with state regulations that are designed to reduce naturally occurring densities of large carnivores. The state of Alaska also should be candid with the public about the absence of science supporting the efficacy of predator control programs to achieve established objectives with regard to ungulate harvests instead of making unsupported claims of “success” for wolf reduction efforts in publicly distributed booklets about Intensive Management (e.g., [15]). For bears, there are not even any claimed successes for increased harvests of adult moose or caribou resulting from increased bear harvests [3]. Appointments by the Alaska Governor to the Alaska Board of Game, which sets Alaska hunting regulations, should include members who recognize the importance and value of large carnivores both to ecosystem function [2] as well as to the state’s economy and wildlife viewing enthusiasts [16]. Mechanisms and funding must be in place to ensure science-based management that includes adequate monitoring and research of predator–prey relationships and trends [3,5,17]. Information campaigns and other grass roots efforts by concerned citizens and nongovernmental organizations are likely needed to remedy current unsound management practices for large carnivores in Alaska.

 

Moose/Car Collisions More Common In Alaska In Winter

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

(Statewide) — Motorists are urged to use extra caution this time of year when traveling roadways in Southcentral, Interior, and other regions where moose are common. Long nights and short, often dimly lit winter days make the animals especially difficult to spot, increasing the danger of moose-vehicle collisions.

“The majority of our road kills occur during the winter months,” said Kenai Area Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger. “Decreased visibility due to lack of daylight, icy roads, and moose movement patterns all contribute to the increased collision rates we see at this time of year.”

Visibility hazards are further compounded when accumulating snow forces moose into lowland areas, often around highway corridors where travel is easier and food sources more exposed. The combination can be deadly for moose and motorists alike when vehicles traveling at normal highway speeds collide with the animals that may weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds.

To help prevent collisions with moose, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests drivers practice the following safe winter driving habits:

  • Clean vehicle headlights and windshields. Moose can be difficult to see and most moose-vehicle accidents occur at dawn and dusk when the light is low and moose are most active.
  • Drive according to weather conditions. Reduced driving speeds at night and in adverse weather allow motorists better opportunity to spot moose near roadways and provide more time to react should animals bolt into the road.
  • Be alert. Deliberately and continuously scan for wildlife on both sides of the road and along road corridors and medians.
  • Stay tuned. Cow moose crossing or standing near roads are often accompanied by calves; reduce speed when moose are spotted and look for additional animals that may be crossing behind the first.
  • Observe Signs. Watch for highway warning signs marking high moose-vehicle collision areas and known moose crossing areas such as moose ranges or refuges; remain especially alert for a few miles before and beyond those areas.
  • Back Off. Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you to allow for greater braking distances and reaction time.
  • Other Clues. Watch for flickering in the headlights of oncoming traffic or against reflective signs that may be caused by an animal crossing in front of that vehicle.

Motorists involved in or who witness moose-vehicle collisions should contact Alaska State Troopers. Injured moose should be reported to the nearest Department of Fish and Game office during normal business hours, online at adfg.alaska.gov (Report a Wildlife Encounter), or to the troopers outside normal business hours.

Rachel Baker Named ADFG Deputy Commissioner

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

(Anchorage) — Acting Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang today announced that long-time Alaska fisheries analyst Rachel S. Baker will join the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) as deputy commissioner beginning Feb. 1. Also joining the department is Rachel Hanke who started work as legislative liaison earlier this month.

“Rachel Baker and Rachel Hanke both understand the importance of the health and sustainability of our resources in the long-term,” said Vincent-Lang. “They care about putting food on the table of Alaskans and insuring that the state retains its fish and wildlife management authority.”

Baker brings 15 years experience as an analyst and policy advisor in state and federal fisheries management to her role at the department. She began her fisheries career in 2003 as an economist with ADF&G. She joined the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2008 where she most recently worked as Supervisory Fishery Management Specialist in Silver Spring, MD. She will be based in Juneau.

As deputy commissioner she will represent the state’s interests in federal fisheries management issues, including representing the department with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on behalf of the commissioner. She will also coordinate state and federal fisheries policies and management programs to benefit the state and Alaska’s coastal communities.

“I am pleased to join the ADF&G and support its important work to manage and conserve our fisheries resources,” she said. “I have always been impressed by department staff and their commitment to providing high quality information for management decisions. I am eager to work with our scientists, managers and stakeholders to implement policy and management programs that maximize fishery benefits for all Alaskans.”

Hanke started at the department on Jan. 7. She will be the department legislative liaison. She worked in the legislature for five years prior to joining the ADF&G. Her background includes stints as staff to Sen. Peter Micciche and Rep. Kurt Olson. She is an avid hunter, fisherwoman, trapper and lifelong Alaskan. She grew up on the Kenai River.

“I am thrilled to work with lawmakers on fish and game issues,” said Hanke. “Alaska is unique, and I look forward to sharing the department’s challenges with lawmakers as well as the opportunities the department brings to Alaskans.”

Juneau-Area King Crab Fishery Set To Shut Down

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

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today the Juneau Area (Section 11-A) personal use red and blue king crab fishery winter season will close at 8:00 p.m., Friday, January 11,
2019.

Analyses of effort levels and harvest projections indicate the 2018/2019 winter season personal use harvest allocation of 1,268 red and blue king crab will be achieved by the time of the closure.

Significant participation in the winter season, combined with good harvest rates, resulted in a shorter than anticipated fishery.
Participants in the winter fishery must report their king crab harvest online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/PU or return their permits to the Douglas office once the seasonal limit is reached or no later than January 18, 2019.

The Emergency Order corresponding with this announcement is EO 1C0519.

More Salmon Closures For 2019: Cook Inlet Chinook Shut Down

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

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) today announced closures to 2019 Northern Cook Inlet (NCI) king salmon commercial and sports fisheries. Subsistence king salmon fisheries in Northern Cook Inlet will also be restricted.

The department is restricting and closing king salmon fisheries to conserve weak king salmon stocks. Multiple king salmon stocks in NCI, including seven stocks of concern, have failed to meet escapement goals in recent years.

“The department must make these closures and restrictions because of a recent pattern of extremely poor returns for king salmon stocks in the NCI area,” said ADF&G Acting Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang. “The outlook for this season is particularly worrisome with the Deshka River king salmon forecast well below the escapement goal.

“This system is the primary indicator stock used for management of the Susitna drainage. While the department realizes these closures and restrictions cause hardship, we want the public to know now what is happening well in advance of the 2019 season.”

“The department is mandated to manage Alaska’s fisheries for sustained yield. We must make conservation actions to ensure the long-term sustainability of these important king salmon stocks. We will also be actively monitoring runs so that we can make opportunity available if runs come in stronger than expected.”

Weirs on the Deshka and Little Susitna rivers, fishwheels, and aerial surveys will be used to gauge inseason run strength. Fishing opportunity may be restored where and when possible while ensuring escapement goals are achieved.

King salmon sport fisheries will be closed in 2019 throughout the Susitna River, Yentna River and Little Susitna River drainages. Commercial fishing will be closed in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet through June 24 to allow passage of king salmon through the district.

Subsistence king salmon fisheries in the Tyonek Subdistrict and Upper Yentna, which are each open three days a week by regulation, are being restricted to two days per week during the respective subsistence fishery seasons. This shares the burden of conservation across all user groups while recognizing a subsistence priority.

Emergency orders and announcements related to these closures can be found at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/EONR/index.cfm?ADFG=Region.R2&Year=2019 and http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=cfnews.main

The Deshka forecast can be found at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=ByAreaSouthcentralNorthCookInlet.fishingInfo#outlook

Susitna, Little Susitna River Salmon Fishing Closed

The following press releases are courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation closure for Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage effective 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, July 13, 2019. King salmon fishing is closed in all waters of the Susitna River drainages and may not be targeted by anglers. King salmon caught incidentally may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

During the closure, sport fishing gear is limited to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure when fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage in those waters normally open to king salmon fishing. Sport fishing for other species will be allowed seven days per week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. This includes the waters within Unit 2 that are normally closed on certain days during the king salmon season. For a complete description of these waters, anglers should refer to pages 20-37 in the 2019 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

“Last season king salmon stocks in the North Cook Inlet experienced a weak run of king salmon, as did most of Alaska. An exceptionally low run is expected again this season due to a poor showing of 5- and 6-year old fish,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “Alaskans know every fish counts towards achieving our escapement goals and providing a sustainable fishery for our future. ADF&G staff understands the frustrations and tremendous impact closing this fishery down has on anglers, local businesses, and guides. Nonetheless, ADF&G has a duty to protect, maintain, and improve our sport fisheries, and even with these restrictions, we will likely not meet our escapement goals.”

In conjunction with this closure, an additional sport fishing emergency order number 2-KS-2-06-19 closes king salmon fishing and implements tackle restrictions in all waters of the Little Susitna River from its mouth upstream to the Parks Highway Bridge. In addition, directed king salmon commercial fishing in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet will also be closed for the 2019 season (May 27, and June 3, 10, 17, and 24).

The 2019 Deshka River King Salmon Forecast can be found on the Northern Cook Inlet Management Area webpage under Annual Run Outlook. For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey at (907) 746-6300.

Little Susitna River King Salmon Fishing Shut Down

In favor of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing regulation closure for the Little Susitna River drainage effective 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, July 13, 2019. King salmon fishing is closed in all waters of the Little Susitna River from its mouth upstream to the Parks Highway Bridge and may not be targeted by anglers. King salmon caught incidentally may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

During the closure, sport fishing gear is limited to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure when fishing on the Little Susitna River in those waters normally open to king salmon fishing. Sport fishing for other species will be allowed seven days per week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. For a complete description of these waters, anglers should refer to pages 20-37 in the 2019 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

“Last season king salmon stocks in the North Cook Inlet experienced a weak run of king salmon, as did most of Alaska. An exceptionally low run is expected again this season due to a poor showing of 5- and 6-year old fish,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “Alaskans know every fish counts towards achieving our escapement goals and providing a sustainable fishery for our future. ADF&G staff understands the frustrations and tremendous impact closing this fishery down has on anglers, local businesses, and guides. Nonetheless, ADF&G has a duty to protect, maintain, and improve our sport fisheries, and even with these restrictions, we will likely not meet our escapement goals.”

In conjunction with this closure, an additional sport fishing emergency order number 2-KS-2-05-19 closes king salmon fishing and implements tackle restrictions in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainages. In addition, directed king salmon commercial fishing in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet will also be closed for the 2019 season (May 27, and June 3, 10, 17, and 24).

Cordova Hunter’s Body Found On Remote Island

From KTUU, an Alaska deer hunter’s body was found on a Chugach National Forest island:

David Miezejeski, age 60, of Cordova, was on a deer hunting trip near Windy Bay on Hawkins Island. That’s where, according to the Alaska State Troopers, he was found dead.

Here’s the full dispatch from Alaska State Troopers:

On Monday, December 31,2018 at 1633 hours the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Cordova, were notified by Cordova Police Department that David Miezejeski, age 60, of Cordova. had died during a deer hunting trip near Windy Bay on Hawkins Island.  Investigation revealed Miezejeski was discovered unresponsive, not breathing, and without a pulse by a hunting companion a short time after being dropped off on a beach alone. His body was recovered and returned to Cordova where he was pronounced dead at 1845 hours by Cordova EMS personnel. Miezejeski’s body will be sent to the State Medical Examiner for autopsy.