Contending that the state of Alaska has "declared a quiet war" on bears, National Parks Conservation Association officials on Friday urged the Alaska Board of Game to curtail bear baiting, snaring, and spotlighting of bears in national preserves in the state.
During a board meeting in Anchorage to collect public testimony in various wildlife management issues, Jim Stratton, NPCA's Alaska regional director, maintained that, "(I)n its desire to increase the numbers of moose and caribou for sportsman to hunt, the state has declared a quiet war on Alaska’s bears including those living in Alaska’s national preserves."
“It is time to put an end to this madness and ensure these animals are protected for the enjoyment of our kids and grandkids," he added.
According to the NPCA official, the most egregious method currently allowed by the Board is referred to as spotlighting.
“Imagine crawling into a bear den to shoot a hibernating Yogi or Smokey taking his winter’s nap. It’s legal in Alaska,” said Mr. Stratton in prepared statements released Friday. “And with the availability of heat-seeking devices, it’s far too easy to find bear dens.”
The Board also currently authorizes killing cubs and sows with cubs and the selling of bear parts, the NPCA said. Snaring is another objectionable method currently allowed in national preserves and statewide.
Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, also testified that the policy of bear snaring is not hunting but a killing method that "indiscriminately kills both black and grizzly bears, including females with cubs, older cubs, and females."
He added that he "joins the unprecedented number of Alaskan scientists and wildlife managers with over 1,000 years of combined bear management experience who have stated that bear snaring is unscientific, unethical, and incompatible with the principles of modern wildlife management."
In his prepared testimony, Mr. Stratton pointed out that the NPCA and the National Park Service have over the years repeatedly pointed out where state regulations conflict with federal land-management agency directives and that the state on numerous occasions has been asked to either modfiy its proposed regulations or exempt NPS lands from them.
"I have documented over 52 times in the past 11 years where the Board ignored a change or exemption request from the National Park Service to a conflicting regulation that was adopted by the Board," the NPCA official testified. "And in each of the proposals we are supporting today, the Park Service has previously asked for either a change or that their lands be exempt, only to be ignored by the Board.
"Let’s explore a bit of the Congressional authority behind this conflict," Mr. Stratton continued. "Sport hunting as provided for by the Alaska Lands Act in national preserves is not absolute and comes with some restrictions as found in Section 1313:
"A National Preserve in Alaska shall be administered and managed as a unit of the National Park System in the same manner as a national park … except that the taking of fish and wildlife for sport purposes … shall be allowed in a national preserve under applicable State and Federal law and regulation," he said. "The key words here are 'in the same manner as a national park' and 'under applicable state and federal law and regulation.'"
According to the NPCA, the Board of Game, with an intent to increase big-game species such as caribou, has taken "more subtle attempts to reduce wolf and bear populations by extending seasons, providing for opportunistic bear hunting by eliminating the need for a bear tag, increasing the bag limit and embracing a bundle of hunting methods and means that were solely adopted by this board to increase hunter success for wolves and bears."
During the meeting NPCA planned to present seven proposals that request that lands managed by the National Park Service be exempt from certain hunting methods and means.
Specifcally, Mr. Stratton was to ask the Board to support the following proposals:
* Proposal 48 – Prohibits the purchase and sale of game meat on NPS lands;
* Proposal 93 – Prohibits the taking of big game under a trapping license solely using a firearm on NPS lands;
* Proposal 94 – Prohibits trapping during denning months on NPS lands;
* Proposal 97 – Prohibits the use of artificial light for taking game on NPS lands;
* Proposal 108 – Prohibits the harvest of cubs and sows with cubs on NPS lands;
* Proposal 121 – Prohibits baiting and the use of scent lures for black bears on NPS lands, and;
* Proposal 126 – Prohibits trapping or snaring black bears on NPS lands.