Mar 272017

Sprawling over 77 million acres, Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges are peppered with iconic animals, from grizzly bears and black bears to wolves and coyotes. But these predators, which have enjoyed increased protections since this past summer, could once again be hunted using controversial methods such as trapping and baiting.

A measure passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday would abolish a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule enacted in August that largely banned hunting in Alaska’s wildlife refuges, which stretch from the remote Arctic in the north to the Aleutian Islands extending far to the west. The resolution previously cleared the House of Representatives and now needs only President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.

The Obama-era rule specifically prohibits hunting for predator control, which refers to killing predators in order to protect another species. Wolves, coyotes, and other meat eaters feed on ungulates such as deer and moose, which many Alaskans rely on for food. In making its rule, Fish and Wildlife Service argued that Alaska law had erred in prioritizing the population of these ungulates by allowing hunters to kill too many of their predators.

With the repeal of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule protecting bears and other carnivores in Alaska refuges, the state could again begin to allow hunters to attract grizzly bears with bait, a practice some consider to violate the sporting ethos of “fair chase.” Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

The about-to-be-overturned rule had banned the killing of mother black bears (pictured) and mother grizzly bears with their cubs. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

In the past Alaska has allowed the killing of wolves and wolf pups in their dens and the hunting of wolves from airplanes. Animal advocates worry that these practices may return with the repeal of this rule. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark


Coyotes often bear the brunt of predator control practices across the United States. The rule had prohibited hunting of coyotes and wolves during denning season, when pups are born. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Though not mentioned specifically in the overturned rule, wolverines are another carnivore species that potentially face more hunting. There has long been a call to list them as an endangered species. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

The state of Alaska argues that the hunting of predators to control their populations is necessary to preserve caribou (pictured), moose, and deer. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Many Alaskans hunt deer, caribou, and moose (pictured) for meat. The state of Alaska and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have disagreed over whether moose and other grazing animals need more protection from carnivores. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

If passed, the measure would open the door to aggressive hunting practices previously allowed in Alaska, such as shooting bears from airplanes, killing wolves and wolf pups in their dens, and hunting mother bears accompanied by their cubs.

“Over the past several years, the Alaska Board of Game has unleashed a withering attack on bears and wolves that is wholly at odds with America’s long tradition of ethical, sportsmanlike, fair-chase hunting,” said former U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe in a blog post last year.

Alaskans, however, consider this a states’ rights issue. During her testimony in favor of the measure, Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, called the rule “bad for Alaska, bad for hunters, bad for our native peoples, bad for America,” according to The Huffington Post.

Animal welfare advocates have condemned the measure. “This lethal legislation will permit the use of barbaric devices like leg-hold traps, which can leave animals struggling and suffering for days, and neck snares that slowly strangle entangled wildlife,” said Jeff Flocken, the regional director for the North American branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, in a statement. “To call these practices cruel is a vast understatement.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 22 Mar 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether Alaska’s refuges should be opened for hunting again? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Marga Star

It’s barbaric animals struggling and suffering for days, and neck snares that slowly strangle entangled animals.


NO for hunting

Wildlife refuges have long been infiltrated. Until major organizations with outreach educate the public that state and federal wildlife MAN-agement agencies, primarily funded on killing licenses and gun and ammo taxes, are just killing businesses for the few – AND ORGANIZE at the root problem and challenge which is to REPLACE killing license funding with GENERAL PUBLIC FUNDING ( already brought 10-40 times hunter killing license funding ) to general state and federal tax coffers ) – until we DEMAND democratic funding, we have and have never had fair say in our governing of our commons. 95% of us who… Read more »
Excuse me, but just what part of the word Refuge is not understood? Population biologists and ecologists understand that all populations (excepting, unfortunately, humans) occupy areas that are either population sources or sinks. Since Alaska state manages its wildlife in order to create sources only for human-caused mortality, it is in fact attempting to farm the national public lands for the benefit of excessive human populations. While one could in the past consider indigenous humans as in some way part of nature, the advent of snow machines (snowmobiles), firearms, radios, air transport, GPS, and other technologies (like the artificial metals,… Read more »

Let nature be wild and free.


A refuge means FREE from being hunted!!!

NO hunting in a refuge

NO for hunting in a refuge

For goodness sake what is a “refuge” either than a place of safety! What an abhorrent act to even contemplate! Surely in the world we live today there must be some form of respect, dignity and compassion in managing wildlife. The world looks on in abject horror at what is taking place in the USA. The world belongs to us all and we all have a responsibility to participate and object to such appalling management of wild places and wildlife! Shame on you Alaska!


You can thank Trump for that.


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