Bear season may shrink in Southeast under proposal

Game board to look at other plans to increase taking of moose, wolves

Posted: Tuesday, September 05, 2000

The state wants to shorten some bear hunting seasons in Southeast, especially for nonresidents, but it would allow more hunting of elk, moose, beaver and wolves in selected areas if the state Board of Game agrees.

The citizen panel that sets hunting and trapping rules is scheduled to meet Nov. 1-9 in Juneau. It is taking written comments on those and other proposals until Oct. 13. Any approved proposals would take effect July 1, 2001.

The state Department of Fish and Game wants to shorten the spring brown bear season in Unit 1, the Southeast mainland, to align it with the shorter season in Unit 4, the Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof islands.

Guided hunts on the mainland last year, at 50, were about twice the usual number for the 1990s, according to state figures. The state doesn't know how many bears are on the mainland, and biologists are concerned they could be overhunted.

Nonresidents must use a guide, or go out with Alaska relatives, to hunt brown bears. The U.S. Forest Service recently announced a moratorium on new guides and it capped guided hunters in units 1 and 4 at recent levels for 2001. It's asking for voluntary compliance this year.

Scott Newman, a hunting guide based in Petersburg, said guides have been asking for caps on guided hunters for a while.

"That will keep things in check," he said.

But the new moratorium might not offer enough safeguards for mainland bears, and guides might challenge the number of allotted clients, said Bruce Dinneford, Southeast wildlife management coordinator.

The Game Board also is likely to consider how to restrict brown bear hunting on Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof islands if kills reach state-imposed limits, said Paul Johnson, a guide from Chichagof Island who worked on a citizen and agency brown bear committee.

The committee recommended starting with voluntary reductions in kills, followed by cutting the number of guided hunters, shorter seasons and limited permits if necessary.

Fish and Game also wants to shorten the nonresident black bear season in Unit 3, the islands around Petersburg and Wrangell, by six weeks. In contrast, some guides have proposed harvest caps.

Biologists are concerned about the increased number of bears killed in recent years on Kuiu Island, 90 percent of which are taken by nonresidents.

"What makes us most uneasy is we have a total lack of population information," Dinneford said.

But Newman, the guide, said a shorter season would eliminate guided hunts for black bear because guides can make more money on brown bear hunts once the seasons overlap.

"It always worked out really good to go black bear hunting for two weeks and then go brown bear hunting for two weeks," he said.

Other proposals before the Game Board would allow more elk hunters in the Wrangell area, open a beaver season near Haines, let hunters kill more moose in Berners Bay and more wolves on Prince of Wales Island, and open a cow moose season near Gustavus.

Fish and Game wants to increase the number of bull elk permits on Etolin and Zarembo islands, near Wrangell, from 70 to 120. It also would open an elk season in a broad area of Southeast, where some elk may have migrated.

Biologists are concerned the elk, introduced to the islands in 1987, are competing for food with the native Sitka black-tailed deer.

The Game Board also will hear some state-recommended levels for deer herds and harvests in Southeast. The initial figures are slightly higher than the five-year average, said Matt Robus, deputy director of wildlife conservation.

The Game Board also is expected to discuss recommending to federal waterfowl regulators a separate, earlier hunting season for the Sitka area because most birds have flown past Sitka by the time the hunting season starts.

Copies of the proposals are available at the state Department of Fish and Game at 1255 Eighth St., just south of the Douglas Bridge, or on the Internet through Hot Links at

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