ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Board of Game has added brown bears to a controversial snaring program designed to boost the moose population on the other side of Cook Inlet from Anchorage.
The expansion was approved Friday with a 4-3 vote, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Alaska regional management supervisor Lem Butler said bears kill many moose calves each summer. The rest die from a variety of causes including drowning and unknown predators.
The board previously authorized the much-criticized snaring and baiting of black bears, which are lured with buckets of raw meat then snared by their paws when they reach inside the trap. Sometimes bears chew off a foot to escape.
“Not only will they chew their foot off, they can also easily maim themselves to the point that they are crippled,” Wade Willis, an ex-wildlife worker and now an agency watchdog, told The Associated Press last year.
Willis is a member of Defenders of Wildlife, a group that has condemned snaring.
“It’s never been proven that you can safely and effectively conduct a snaring operation in black and brown bear country,” Willis said.
Another group, Defenders of Wildlife, believes snaring commercializes predator control by allowing skins to be resold by wholesalers and by not requiring hunters to keep the meat.
“It is very much an adaptive experiment,” said regional Fish and Game supervisor Bruce Dale. “The effectiveness of reducing both bear species through harvest methods to increase moose calf survival has not been demonstrated.”
Dale said his department will closely monitor the bear control efforts, which will be performed by residents. Participants must attend department training to qualify for the program.
In an effort to boost moose populations, wolf-reduction efforts began in 2004. In 2007, the board allowed predator control of black bears in an effort to increase spring and summer moose calf survival.
In 2009, the foot-snaring program on the west side of Cook Inlet killed 81 black bears, according to Fish and Game.
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