How low in the name of predator control can we go? That is the essential question before the Alaska Board of Game as they consider an “experimental” program to snare brown bears in a large region west of Cook Inlet. For those of you not immersed in wildlife management, bear snaring is a killing technique that indiscriminately takes both black and grizzly bears, sows, sows with cubs, and older cubs. A snare is a tightening loop of metal cable that is set off by a bear pawing at some bait in a bucket. Depending on how the snare is set, the bear may literally hang by its leg until the trapper arrives days later at which time the bear and any cubs with it will be killed. Imagine the anguish of a brown bear used to roaming hundreds of miles snared for days with a bucket on its paw.
If this image isn’t disturbing, just think about a cub being snared and the agitation level in the sow. Is this an ethical way to treat wildlife, particularly a species so elemental to the mystique and image of being an Alaskan? For me living among bears is an honor and one that I enjoy sharing with visitors. Not only is it a thrill to encounter the presence of these giant masters of the forest, but a source of pride in calling Alaska home. The least we can do is when it comes to those time when killing a bear is justified is that it is done with respect. Hunters I know do this. There is no respect, no skill, and no sport in snaring. It is simply torture. And what for? For an experiment in extreme predator control.
While predator control may be an effective means of attaining higher game populations in some Game Management Units, the same is not true throughout Alaska. Unfortunately, the state continues to maintain that reducing predation is appropriate whether or not predation is the cause of decline in the target population. The Board of Game believes that predation control is appropriate everywhere game is considered depleted regardless of the cause. This is the extreme philosophy that pervades the current Board of Game and it appears to be no big deal for them to initiate the snaring of brown bears even when the moose population in Unit 16 B is considered stable. After all it is an ‘experiment’.
This “experiment” seems designed to see how extreme the Board of Game can become before there is a loud outrage of Alaskans across the state. Besides they’ve already given up on science. There have been numerous wildlife managers testifying that the “killing of bears regardless of age, species, and gender is incompatible with the scientific principle of modern wildlife management”. Indiscriminate killing of a species is the equivalent of a surgeon using an ax instead of scalpel to achieve desired results. Apparently the Board of Game intends to bludgeon as much of the state as possible with their notion of wildlife management which now includes the expanded use of torturous snares.
Our bears deserve better. Our bears deserve respect. Our wildlife deserves to be managed by scientific principles. This is what it means to call ourselves Alaskans. This is what is at stake when the Board of Game convenes in Fairbanks March 2-11th. It’s time to speak out in defense of our wildlife heritage. You can sign a petition at www.change.org/petitions/alaska-board-of-game-stop-bear-snaring or better yet let Gov. Sean Parnell know that we’ve had enough of extreme predator control.
There are many prominent Alaskans making this appeal, including bear hunter and big game guide Karl Braendel who made this appeal to his fellow guides in an editorial: “You guys know better than most just how cool the grizzly is; the big bear deserves better, we deserve better. I urge you to step up and make a stand. Everyone who loves bears should make a stand. They are easily our most magnificent animals.”
• Troll is a long-time Alaskan with more than 22 years of experience in fisheries, coastal policy and energy policy. She resides in Douglas.