Board to consider expanding predator control

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Board of Game is meeting this week to consider more than 50 proposals, including expanding the state's predator control program, under which more than 1,000 wolves and nearly as many bears have been killed since 2003.

The four-day meeting begins Friday in Anchorage. The proposals come from the public, game advisory committees and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Fish and Game is proposing that predator control be expanded into the northern Alaska Peninsula and northern Kenai Peninsula.

The proposal for the northern Alaska Peninsula in game units 9(C) and 9(E) sets a minimum goal of more than doubling the caribou herd from fewer than 2,500 animals.

Fish and Game also is recommending that an intensive management plan be established for the northern Kenai Peninsula to increase moose numbers in game unit 15A to between 3,000 and 3,500 animals.

Predator control began near the interior town of McGrath in 2003. The program has survived numerous court challenges and operates in a half-dozen areas.

Another proposal would bar nonresidents from hunting for moose and caribou in areas where there is predator control. Wade Willis, a former state wildlife biologist and program critic, said allowing nonresidents to hunt in those areas defeats the stated purpose of the predator control program - to help feed rural Alaskans.

"It is just ridiculous," Willis said.

The department prefers the issue be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Not all the proposals before the board fall strictly under Alaska wildlife. One proposal would allow Alaskans to own Bengal, Savannah and Chausie cats - exotic breeds resulting from crossing domestic and wild cats - by adding the animals to the "clean list" of animals that may be imported, traded and sold without a permit.

Fish and Game opposes the proposal and also doesn't want to see sloths, kinkajous, wallaroos and surgically de-venomized reptiles added to the list.

One proposal would remove chimpanzees from the list - a proposal likely prompted by the attack of a chimpanzee on a Connecticut woman who was horribly disfigured. Fish and Game likes this proposal.

Another proposal would add capuchin monkeys to the list of animals Alaskans can keep without a permit. The small, intelligent monkeys are sometimes used as service animals helping quadriplegics with tasks of daily living.

Fish and Game opposes this proposal. It says adding any primates to the clean list would reverse a decades-long trend of restricting private ownership of the animals. The monkeys are allowed in 27 states.

The department also is against changing the definition of edible meat in a proposal prompted by the Point Hope caribou case where several men were accused of allowing animals to rot on the tundra. State game laws require hunters to salvage all edible meat to prevent waste. The proposal would make an allowance for diseased meat.

"Many people are saying, especially in my region, the Arctic region, hunters have always been taught if the animal is sick you leave it in the field," said Susan Bucknell, the board's regional coordinator for the Arctic.

Fish and Game says changing the definition could encourage hunters to leave meat in the field, claiming it was diseased. The Department of Law adds that prohibitions against wasting meat and definitions of what is edible are set in state statute, and the board is not authorized to make those changes.

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