The state Board of Game is considering undoing a 20-year ban on bear hunting in Admiralty Island's bear refuges.
Juneau hunters and tour guides urged the board Wednesday to take opposite actions on the Admiralty ban. Board members are reviewing areas closed to hunting throughout Alaska, including bear refuges in Upper Seymour Canal, Pack Creek and at Mitchell, Kanalku and Favorite bays and Salt Lake.
"There's no biological reason for keeping it closed," hunter George Imbsen testified during the board's Southeast regional meeting, which continues through Friday at the Baranof Hotel.
But Alaska Adventure's Jeff Sloss countered that hunting in the refuges could harm bear viewing by tourists in mid-May. The island has become "world-renowned" for bear viewing over the past 20 years.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has recommended that the Board of Game not lift the ban. It also has recommended against local proposals to reinstitute bear baiting in the Juneau area, also banned for about 20 years.
But at least some of the board members appeared to lean in favor of lifting the Admiralty hunting and the Juneau bear baiting bans.
Fairbanks board member Pete Bust noted Tuesday's statewide vote opposing a citizens' initiative to ban bear baiting throughout Alaska.
Sloss said, "(Baiting) doesn't seem to make sense in Southeast," referring to the ban and restrictions in some urban Southeast areas like Juneau and Haines.
But Bust responded that Southeast Alaskans "maybe need to try that."
Other board members quizzed Sloss and his colleague Barb Kelly about whether hunting would actually interfere with tourism, since the bear season ends May 20.
"Is there the possibility that both can be accommodated?" asked board member Ron Somerville of Juneau.
Kelly said she worried that bears would leave the area. "It will affect their behavior," she said.
The above proposals and about 70 others - most pertaining to Southeast Alaska but also including north Alaska wolf hunting proposals - are being scrutinized by the board and could get votes within the next two days.
The board's deliberation on the Admiralty Island proposal could begin this morning. The board will also take up a local compromise to manage wolves on Douglas Island and a host of ideas to fix safety and ecological problems posed by the Gustavus moose hunt.
Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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