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Game Board delays vote

Posted: January 18, 2012 - 1:02am
Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles testifies in opposition to continued bear snaring before the Alaska Board of Game on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, at a meeting room in the Anchorage Hilton Hotel in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.  (AP Photo/Dan Joling)  Dan Joling
Dan Joling
Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles testifies in opposition to continued bear snaring before the Alaska Board of Game on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, at a meeting room in the Anchorage Hilton Hotel in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Board of Game has delayed a proposal that would have expanded the use of snares to kill grizzly and black bears.

Former Gov. Tony Knowles, Alaska wildlife scientists and conservation groups last week condemned proposals that would have allowed additional snaring of bears to increase populations of moose that could be killed by hunters.

Snaring of black bears is now limited to an area across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, and snaring is allowed for grizzlies in a smaller portion of the same area. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game proposed expanding west to an area between Aniak and Stony River.

Wolf control has been conducted in the game unit since 2004 to aid the moose population, and wolf numbers have been reduced by at least 60 percent since 2005.

The result? No apparent increase in the number of moose.

Adding bear removal, according to the department, would help address that.

In addition to snaring, the department proposal would have authorized reduction of grizzly and black bear populations by hunting sows and cubs, removing the bag limit and, allowing hunters to kill land and shoot bears as long as they were at least 300 feet away from the airplane.

Former department bear researcher John Schoen said last week that snaring usually means hanging a bait bucket and placing a snare inside. When the bear reaches into the bucket, the animal trips the snare around a front paw. The snare tightens as a bear fights the cable.

The bear remains entangled until the trapper returns and shoots the animal.

Schoen presented a statement backed by 78 biologists with Alaska wildlife experience who oppose snaring because it’s indiscriminate, capturing males, females or even cubs. Cubs left behind when their mother is killed likely also will die, he said.

Knowles, a Democrat who completed his second consecutive term as governor in 2002, called snaring an “unscientific and unethical policy.”

The board tabled the measure until its next meeting, scheduled for March 2-11 in Fairbanks.

The board Tuesday approved aerial shooting of bears for the first time as it voted to protect musk oxen in Arctic Ocean drainages west of the Canning River.

According to the department, the musk oxen population has not reached the department’s objective of at least 300 animals. Grizzlies killed most musk oxen between 2007 and 2011, the department said, and officials asked for “selective, lethal brown bear removal” to let musk oxen recover.

The board approved the killing of grizzlies from aircraft by a department employee or someone accompanied by a department employee.

KSKM-FM reported Monday that the board approved wolf predator control on the Kenai Peninsula for the first time.

Board member Ted Spraker said the board couldn’t let the moose populations continue to decline and that heavy snow this winter is likely to increase calf and adult moose mortality.

John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said lower moose numbers on the Peninsula are a habitat problem, not a predator problem, and that habitat has degraded because of a lack of wildfires.

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