Alaska Game Board bans drone use by hunters

ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Board of Game has decided that hunters will not be assisted by remote-controlled eyes in the skies.

The board has voted unanimously to ban the use of drones carrying cameras for the hunting of big game, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The practice is not widespread. However, Alaska Wildlife Troopers supported the change as technology becomes easier and cheaper for relaying images from drones to people on the ground.

It was inevitable that some hunters seeking an advantage would try using drones to try to spot moose or bears to shoot, said Capt. Bernard Chastain, operations commander for the Wildlife Troopers.

“Under hunting regulations, unless it specifically says that it’s illegal, you’re allowed to do it,” Chastain said. “What happens a lot of times is technology gets way ahead of regulations, and the hunting regulations don’t get a chance to catch up for quite a while.”

Troopers in February told game board members about a 2012 moose hunt that involved a drone. Troopers did not investigate the incident reported to the Department of Fish and Game.

“More than anything, the change in the law represents thoughts that we’ve heard for several years, and based upon how the regulations are written, we had to take an affirmative step to make those illegal,” Chastain said.

The no-drone regulation was approved unanimously at the five-day Game Board session that concluded Tuesday, said board director Kristy Tibbles. The draft regulation will be reviewed by the Department of Law and likely be in effect July 1, Tibbles said.

Hunters can kill animals a day or more after spotting them from aircraft but the new rule as approved would make spotting and shooting big game with a drone illegal at any time.

Enforcing a similar “same-day airborne” regulation for drones would he harder than for airplanes, Chastain said. Troopers or other hunters would have a far more difficult time linking the small aircraft to the harvesting of an animal, he said.

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