Top scientists back federal plan to protect Alaska predators

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A group of scientists has backed a federal plan to restrict the trapping and gunning down of bears and wolves in Alaska’s wildlife refuges, in the face of bitter opposition from the state government.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed an overhaul of hunting regulations for Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges, which span nearly 77m acres of wilderness in the state.

The new rules would effectively ban “non-subsistence” slaughter of predators within the refuges without a sound scientific reason.

A brown bear hunts salmon in Alaska’s Katmai national park. Planned federal rule changes would give predators like this some respite from hunters. Photograph: Olly Scholey/BBC/Silverback Films/Olly Scholey

Practices to be outlawed include the killing of bear cubs or their mothers, the controversial practice of bear baiting and the targeting of wolves and coyotes during the spring and summer denning season.

Anyone hoping to take a plane or helicopter to shoot a bear will also be unable to do so. These changes have been backed by a group of 31 leading scientists who said the current hunting laws hurt some of the “most iconic yet persecuted species in North America: grizzly bears, black bears and wolves”.

In a letter sent for the USFWS’s public comment process, the biologists and ecologists from across the US point out that research shows that killing the predators of moose and caribou does very little to boost their numbers.

“Alaska’s many-decades program of statewide carnivore persecution has failed to yield more ungulates for human hunters,” the letter states. “Furthermore, the methods of predator persecution are seen as problematic by a clear majority of Alaska’s citizens.”

Alaska stepped up the trapping and shooting of predator animals after the Republican governor Frank Murkowski gained power in 2002. His successors, including Sarah Palin, have all supported a policy of “intensive management” that removes wolves and bears with the goal of boosting moose and caribou numbers for hunters.

The state has increasingly clashed with federal agencies over this policy. The situation escalated after the Alaska board of game removed a 122 sq mile buffer zone protecting wolves around the Denali national park – the US’s largest national park – and allowed the baiting of bears and the use of lights to rouse hibernating bears so that they can be shot as they emerge.

Alaska recently offered its support to a moose hunter who won a supreme court appeal against the federal government over his use of a hovercraft in an ecologically sensitive area.

“We have a fiscal crisis here in Alaska but we see a large amount of money spent on ineffective hunting policies,” said Francis Mauer, retired wildlife biologist at the USFWS and one of the letter’s signatories.

“The hunting guys have total control of the board of game, there’s no balance there. The state has aggressively increased the killing of predators to the point where anyone can kill 10 wolves a day for 345 days of the year.

“This kind of approach isn’t supported by the science, nor is it legitimate for these refuges to be converted into areas for hunting. We have seen wolf and bear numbers reduce in some areas at a time where there is increasing scientific evidence showing the value of them in maintaining healthy ecosystems.”

Alaska’s administration has said it “strongly opposes” the new USFWS regulations, arguing that they are federal overreach, undermine the state’s ability to manage wildlife populations and hurt native populations who rely upon moose and caribou for food.

“Ultimately, the new regulations would have significant impacts on Alaskans, particularly those living a subsistence way of life,” said Bruce Dale, director of the division of wildlife conservation.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 29 Mar 2016.

 

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Delbert Smith

YOu anti hunters should be totally ashameed of your selves!! YOu whine about animals and yet you still allow. Children are trafficked for forced labour, domestic work, as child soldiers, as camel jockeys, for begging, work on construction sites and plantations but most children are trafficked for sexual exploitation. And girls trafficked for forced labor and domestic work often end up sexually exploited by their employers. The vulnerability of these children is even greater when they arrive in another country. Often they do not have contact with their families and are at the mercy of their employers. In 2006, the… Read more »

Mark Gall
Mark Gall

Delbert: What on Earth does child trafficking have to do with U.S. hunting laws and ecology? Please tell me the connection, as you lost me. Perhaps I should equate the hunting of top predators with the Nazi holocaust. It seems that you could find some connection there.

jim kowalsky
jim kowalsky

Oh stick to the topic. How silly.

Delbert Smith

You speak of Preservation, not conservation. You have been misinformed.

Delbert Smith

Marilyn, you dont know anything about hunting. Its the hunt not the kill. Many of the richest peopel on earth hunt. YEs these are the elite. They carry more money in their pocket than your total worth.

There is not anysuch weapon as an automatic bow, thereby you prove your own ignorance.

Delbert Smith

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, most often referred to as the Pittman–Robertson Act for its sponsors, Nevada Senator Key Pittman and Virginia Congressman Absalom Willis Robertson, was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 2, 1937 and became effective on July 1 of the following year.[1][2][3][4] It has been amended many times with several of the major ones taking place during the 1970s[1][2][3][5] and the most recent taking place in 2000.[6] Prior to the creation of the Pittman–Robertson Act, many species of wildlife were driven to or near extinction by commercial/market hunting pressure and/or habitat degradation… Read more »

jim kowalsky
jim kowalsky

topic!!!

Marilyn Ashman

Hunters love to kill!. Why on earth would anyone think differently!?. And those elaborate hunting stores!!!….are profitting from hunters that purchase all weaponry as if going to war!!. One of those god forsaken idiot weapons are, automatic bows!!!…the Friggin hunters won't be happy, unless the animal suffers!!! . ANNIHILATE SPORT HUNTING AND ALL OF THOSE FUCKING SICK WEAPONS USED BY "BILLYBOB REDNECKS" !!!!! SICK SOB's!!!!

Linda French

As long as they have republicans in power in Alaska you will have hunting. They all cater to the killing industry of hunting anything and everything. Excuses from hunters like Delbert Smith about funding/ is one of their excuses, and he has failed to ever see the other side of Conservation…

Jody Stanley Sr.

The anti-hunting community is constantly either misunderstanding or seeking to redefine what conservation. Conservation is the "wise use of resources, both renewable and no renewable". Game animals are a perpetually renewable resource whose populations can be maintained at levels in accordance with the carrying capacity of the land. Excess wildlife can be take for human consumption with damaging the resource. This is what hunters themselves, back in the 40', demanded regulated hunting. Years of market hunters and limitless, irresponsible harvest had decimated game population. It was the hunting community that demand limits on season and harvest quantities. They also demanded… Read more »

Delbert Smith

Refuges are funded only one way and that is from Hunters. Yes Hunters pay for this. Preservationism is not good for the animals True Conservation is!

This is not Conservation.

jim kowalsky
jim kowalsky

US Taxpayers pay for wildlife management enormous;sly on federal wildlife refuge, National park and preserve lands; BLM lands; national forest lands, Indialn reservations, and much more; and state taxpayers likewise support their state wildlife management programs in states that have appropriate taxes. USGeological Survey does a majority the wildlife reserach. That hunters alone carry this burden is ridiculous on its face and conservation and preservation are terms used to suit the purveyors notions of convenience —–…….what they believe., dicctionary definitions notwithstanding.In all cases hunters paying or not, they, you, do not own the nation’s nor the world.s wildlife, so go… Read more »