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Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt

Brown Bear in Katmai Preserve; Daniel Zatz photographer.

Brown Bear in Katmai Preserve; Daniel Zatz photographer.

The Katmai bear video has been one of the most-viewed posts on National Parks Traveler, being viewed more than 4,000 times in less than a week. It has generated anguish, anger, and controversy. Against this backdrop, Alaska Regional Director Marcia Blaszak has taken a moment to explain the National Park Service's viewpoint of how to manage the bear hunt in Katmai National Preserve. - The editors

Dear National Park Friend:

In the past week, we have received and read a significant number of comments regarding bear hunting in Katmai National Preserve. While I do not expect to change views on this matter, in the next few paragraphs I do hope to explain the position of the National Park Service, including some of the research which guides us and the limits to federal action.

Katmai National Preserve was established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. It mandated, in Section 202, that this area be managed for “high concentrations of brown/grizzly bears.” Section 203 provides that sport hunting in national preserves shall be permitted. Sport hunting is regulated by the State of Alaska.

Research by state and federal biologists show that the density of bears in the preserve is high. This August, three survey flights over the preserve produced an average count of 279 bears, with a high of 329 in one instance. Because you never see every bear, this translates into an estimated population of about 581 bears in the preserve, or more than one bear for every square mile. A similar count in August 2006 showed an estimated preserve population of 331 bears and an average count during three flights of 159 bears. Researchers have also seen a high proportion of single bears, another fact reflective of a healthy, high density population.

Hunting takes place the fall of odd-numbered years and in the spring of even-numbered years. During the last open fall-spring hunt, 35 bears were taken. This translates to an annual harvest rate of no more than 5 percent, considered by biologists to be conservative harvest.

The bear population in the preserve (and in the neighboring national park and state lands) is mobile and individual bears move from areas where hunting is legal to areas where hunting is prohibited. Food supply is among the factors in this movement. As a result of this movement over many miles and often among jurisdictions they may also move from where they are relatively easily seen by bear-viewing visitors or biologists to areas where they are less likely to be seen. This means counts will necessarily be approximations, and that observations at different times of the year and in different locations will result in varying data. Our management, and that of the state Department of Fish and Game, takes mobility, variations in food supply and counting techniques into account by looking at population numbers over a large area and over time and not at the numbers of bears in a particular location.

The seasons, harvest limits and other regulations regarding the hunt are established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Game, a group appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. These regulations define “ethical” in a regulatory sense, and it is those rules which we and the State of Alaska enforce.

Alaskans and others may talk to their elected and appointed officials about the hunting rules they want to see on public land. When Congress last spoke on the issue, it mandated that sport hunting was legal in Alaska’s national preserves and that absent extraordinary circumstances, hunting would be managed by the State of Alaska.

Some commenters also described their views that bears in the preserve are used to seeing people through the summer, including fishermen and bear viewers. It is true that bear viewing has grown as an activity over the last several years. Bears have also been the targets of hunters on the Alaska Peninsula for decades, including the period since the establishment of the national preserve in 1980. Our experience with bears indicates that there is significant variation in the tolerance level which bears have of humans, regardless of the activity in which people are engaged.

The National Park Service will continue to closely monitor the population of bears in Katmai, as well as scrutinize harvest levels and other visitor activities. We appreciate your concern for the park and its resources and welcome your continued participation in the public process.

Marcia Blaszak
NPS Alaska Regional Director

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All of you antihunters need to chill...we have the right to continue these tours, the park blongs to all of us.
Our clients derive great enjoyment from this hunt.

How many of you people commenting have even hunted brown bears? How many of you live in Alaska? Most brown bears this time of year do ignore you as they are more concerned with finding food. It doesnt matter if you are in Katmai reserve or the yukon river or king salmon, if you are hunting a fall bear theres a good chance he wont notice you if you walk up to him. For you people that call the hunters ruthless and savages - why dont you come walk within a couple feet of a mature brown bear and see if you dont wet yourself? How about you Bob? You say a 2 year old could make that shot? I could walk you up to 100yards away and I would probably have to pull the trigger for you. The Department of Fish and Game and the Parks Service has reasons for this hunt. It should not be questioned. They understand the wildlife issues, you dont. You should also realize that the film crews were harassing and interfering with a legal hunt, including a news station. If I was one of the guys being harassed there would multiple lawsuits going by now.

Marcia Blaszak's statement is no more than the pat agency response. They state that there are plenty of bears in Katmai Preserve. The whole of Katmai Preserve is not what is the problem. It is a small portion of the Preserve namely GMU 9C sub unit 703. This is the area of most use by all user groups. The State of Alaska bear Harvest reports show,over eight hunting seasons the average age of the bears being slaughtered here has dropped from sixteen years old to 2.8 years. This data has been presented to The Alaska Board of Game at every meeting about this area since 2000.The last two hunt age reports have not been available from the State of Alaska.( How Convenient. ) In 1999 the B.O.G. moved the bear hunting season forward from Oct.12 to Oct.1 and opened it up to any bear any age exceept a female with cubs. Does this mean that they can kill the cubs but not the female? After every hunt there are orphaned cubs. Word has it that the B.O.G. is dicussing allowing the killing of females with cubs and the cubs. Also being talked about by the B.O.G. is killing bears from airplanes.
The Board of Game is appointed by the governor of Alaska and confirmed by the Alaska Legislation. Once appionted thier term is for 3 years and cannot be removed exceept by the Legislation. The current board is made up of all hunters most of which are members of the A.O.C. ( Alaska Outdoor Council ) Hunters. In the past there have been several non hunters on the board but were removed because they did not want to kill everything. At the 2005 Board of Game meeting in Anchorage there were seven or eight Native vellage elders testify. And the first words out of thier mouths were " We have too many hunters in our area and they have killed all of our moose and caribou."
The Katmai National Park and Preserve is national property and belongs to ALL Americans not just Alaskans. Write your Congressman and push them to include GMU 9C 703 into the Katmai National Park. Tell All of your friends to do the same and keep it up until Congress rewites the park boundaries.

Gerald, what is your Ph.D. in?

"Murdering" are funni.

Fact, thanks for divulging more information about this some what clandestine outfit called the Board of Game and the Alaska Outdoor Council. Sounds like a group of good old boys wanting to control the whole atmosphere of hunting in Alaska...lock stock and barrel! These hunting boards are nothing but a scam. Their goal (and agenda) is to stack the board with pro gut pile hunters, and solidfy their power base to lock out the more conservation minded advocates...and screw the Alaskan Indians. The high price hunting guides (some really think there Daniel Boone) are nothing but prostitutes for the slob rich hunters that can't track, fish or shoot...unless holding hands with a smooth talking guide. To you so called weenie hunters, lets see you do your wilderness homework, and do it alone when it comes to PURE hunting without any strings attached. For the guides...get a real job!

murder: to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.

that's what i and countless others see on the video.

this isn't a hunt. try hunting bears with spears and atlatls. that's hunting.

Oh, I doubt if you could mount much of a case to support your statement insinuating that I'm ignorant of wildlife issues, and that the almighty Board of Game, NPS, DF&G, or other all-knowing agencies should be held in the highest reverence and left to their own devices in their decision making processes regarding the "resources" contained within our parklands. Nobody is above that measure of scrutiny Bear Hunter. The last time the American public left an elected official above the level of scrutiny, we were treated to an up-close and personal view of an idiot who claimed that he didn't even know what sex was, and I cannot EVER allow for that puny level of intellect to become the leading influence on policy that directly impacts some portion of my life, since after all, they're spending MY money, and every taxpayer should demand accountability. It's not only our right, it's our duty as citizens. If you enjoy being a sheep and following orders without question, that's your call. But don't expect or demand that others swear that same blind oath.

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