Is the Bear "Hunt" in Katmai National Preserve Sporting or Ethical?

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Scott Dickerson Photo, Used With Permission.

This female bear was dredging up dead salmon from the lake bottom as the hunters waited for her to return to the beach, close enough so they could kill her. The bear, which was obviously used to being around humans, walked closely past the hunters as they moved to get even closer before shooting her with an arrow and then with a rifle. Scott Dickerson Photo. Used with Permission.

There are places in the national park system where hunting is allowed. That's not the issue with this post. Rather, it's the ethical questions that swirl around the bear "hunt" that the National Park Service has allowed in the preserve portion of Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. What follows are striking observations of the first few days of this fall's three-week hunt made by Jim Stratton, the National Parks Conservation Association regional director in Alaska, Chris Day, a guide and naturalist in Alaska, and Daniel Zatz, a professional videographer. Read their words, view Mr. Zatz's short video, and ask yourself -- and the Park Service -- whether this bear hunt is sporting, and whether the Park Service is serving as a proper steward for the grizzly bears in Katmai. -- The Editors.

(video copyright wildlifeHD, used with permission)

How Sporting Is The Bear Hunt in Katmai National Preserve?

image By Jim Stratton - Alaska Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association

Six weeks ago, I wrote about a request that the National Parks Conservation Association made to the National Park Service in Alaska to shorten the brown bear hunting season in Katmai National Preserve. The reason: an observable, documented decline in the number of brown bears in Katmai.

I also predicted in that piece that the Park Service managers would not listen to us -- and they didn’t.

So on October 1, a three-week brown bear hunt began. When I first saw the video footage of the hunt’s first day, a new question was added to the mix: Is this hunt ethical?

The bears that live in Katmai are viewed by photographers and wildlife enthusiasts all summer long. Every day that weather permits, float planes from Homer bring dozens of people to Katmai to view bears in the wild. Later in the summer, fishing lodges fly in anglers to work the same streams that attract the bears. Between the anglers and the bear viewers, these bears grow very used to people.

Then, on October 1, these habituated bears suddenly become fair game to hunters. This doesn’t seem right – because what’s lacking is a fair chase.

NPCA has argued that the number of bears in the area has diminished over time because of an increase in the number of bears that are hunted and killed. Our request to both the Board of Game in Alaska and the National Park Service for a shorter season this fall, and therefore fewer bears killed, was a reasonable, short-term solution that was nevertheless ignored.

The long-term solution to the over-hunting of bears in this area is to get the state of Alaska and the National Park Service to cooperatively manage the bears in a way that provides for both bear viewing and an ethical hunt. Instead of a season with no limit on the number of bears that can be harvested, the state and NPS should look at localized population information to determine a specific harvest level that provides for both viewing and hunting, and put specific number limits on the hunt.

Management would also allow the Park Service to direct hunters away from the bear-viewing areas to provide both the hunters, and the bears, with a fair chase.

What Happened to The Hunter's Commitment to Fair Chase?

By Chris Day - Guide and Naturalist, Emerald Air Service

On September 30th, we dropped off two news crews to film the brown bear hunt in the Katmai Preserve.
Overflying the area before landing we observed nine hunting camps. Every camp without exception had bears within 200 yards of their tents – bears were strolling up and down the shores of the lake dredging fish, eating berries, completely unaware of their fates.

More than likely, these bears thought -- if bears think -- that these camps and men were no different than the thousands of sports fishermen and bear viewers they have been co-existing with along the salmon stream all summer long.

While we unloaded the crews' gear from the plane, a beautiful big female with a fat cub walked curiously up to within 50 feet of the plane. Curious, but unconcerned. Three more young females without cubs were dredging fish within a few hundred yards before we taxied out. Sports fishermen were casting flies into the waters of the creek. The scene was one of nature's splendor at its height, the tundra alive with fall color, fat bears taking their last meals before climbing into winter dens.

At four o’clock the next afternoon, October 1 -- the first day of hunting season in the preserve, less than 24 hours after we had dropped the crew off -- the scene had changed.

Overflying the area prior to landing, the shores were strewn with bear carcasses, the dead bruins lying on their backs with legs sprawled out as they had been left after their hides had been stripped and carcasses decapitated.

As we taxied up to shore a young, blond female, a bear that had been there the evening before, walked out of the bushes on the hillside a few hundred feet above the plane. As she casually looked at us, out of the alders between us and the bear two hunters stepped out. The bear did not run, she looked at the hunters and was shot. This was not a big male. It was a young, most probably 4- or 5-year-old, female. This bear was no more than 50 feet from the hunters and only a few hundred feet from their camp.

Bears wandering within 300 yards from the kill didn’t even interrupt their feeding. I seriously question the fairness of the chase involved in killing these bears. The hunt will go on for three more weeks, the carcasses will become bait, and these hunters will be able to shoot bears the following morning without leaving their sleeping bags if they so choose. The hunters did nothing illegal.

In the time since witnessing this kill my emotions have moved from initial disbelief --shock and anger at the moment of the kill, then a deep sorrow and grief into the night after the hunt -- to waking with a burning, white-hot rage in the pit of my stomach that has now tempered and hardened my resolve and determination to end this slaughter.

Hunting pressure has been increasing in this area for a number of years now; we have seen a marked decrease in the number of bears we watch in this area and a change in the makeup of the population.

Biology aside (there are many bears in this area), economics aside (value of hunting versus non-consumptive use of wildlife), this is simply ethically and morally wrong. Hunters as a group adhere to the concept of FAIR CHASE

What we witnessed certainly was not FAIR CHASE.

Follow Up:
Alaska Regional Director Responds to Outrage over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt


[0:00] Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to hundreds of grizzly/brown bears that have learned to co-exist with humans. Thousands of visitors and photographers enjoy these human-trusting bears each summer.

The Preserve is now open to grizzly bear hunting.

This is what we saw on October 1, 2007

[3:07] At least five bears were killed on the morning of October 1, 2007. The bears were killed by trophy hunters who only took the hide and skull.

[3:20] All of the images here were recorded within an eight-hour period on October 1st, 2007. With more good weather, hunting will continue every day until the 21st.

[3:41] The following images are of the female bear killed by the arrow and gunshots earlier in this video. She spent more than half hour feeding on salmon in front of our camp before she was killed.

[4:35] The material contained on this video is copyrighted. License is hereby granted for use of this program in its entirety only, and only for display and distribution as a News item on the Internet.

Video copyright 2007 wildlifeHD, used with permission


Kurt & Jeremy: This is pure slob hunting at it's worse. It's pathetic and sad commentary that the NPS allowed such a cruel and open act of senseless killing of a poor animal without a CHASE. Almost like a sitting duck pond for these slob hunters to pick off a defenseless animal. But, to take the skin and head of the bear for trophy, and let the rest rot in a open field is beyond ethical practices of sane hunter. This demands a full public participation and forum to bring attention to the nature in how these bear slaughters are conducted.

i'm a hunter (bow: deer, elk) and while i don't support hunting bears, watching those fat slob losers hunt a habituated park bear in that entirely disrespectful manner makes me sick. might as well go on safari at a zoo. nice job, nps!

I am a longtime Alaskan, subsistence hunter, and avid naturalist. I have made multi-day visits to areas of Katmai National Park very close to where these bears are being shot. In fact, it's likely that I--like thousands of other park visitors--have watched these same animals. It is true that the bears are almost completely fearless, and visitors often have to move out of the bears' way rather than vice versa. I find this hunt absoultely appalling and unconscionable. All of us who love and support our National Parks should send this link to every friend who may join us in protesting the Katmai bear hunt. This practice defiles the reputation of America's national park and profoundly violates every principle of ethical hunting. It has to be stopped.

Park and wildlife managment is generally very good in Alaska. So what are the NPS thinking?? Hunting and bear viewing don't mix. And only one of them is truly sustainable. Despite being unsporting hunting an habituated Bear, where is the hunting/gun etiquette?? Shooting towards people?? Now it is on the internet sadly the NPS judgement is open to the world.

Let me first state that I don't hunt. Never have, probably never will. I'm just a urbanized homonid who gets my meat from the grocery store, or once in a while a local buffalo ranch or private farm. I do, however, know plenty of hunters and serious fishermen, who take pride in their knowledge, abilities, equipment, and love the spirit of the sport, along with the interaction between preditor and prey. No serious fisherman that I know utilized the sport-fishing technology that includes range finders, depth finders, water temperature meters, and the sporadic stray piece of dynamite or speargun. True hunters differ from sportsmen, and that can be gauged by the amount meat in one's freezer versus the number of heads mounted on the wall. And truth be known, the most respectable hunters of all are those of the bow. Any novice with a high-powered rifle can down a critter from 400 yds, drive over on their ATV and drag it out to the processing plant. Some accomplishment. And somehow they actually derive some sense of pride, power, dominance and achieve the ever-popular testosterone rush. Please don't tell me about how much effort you put into packing your own loads, obtaining the latest in winter camouflage gear, spread deer urine all over you face, clean your weapon and sharpen your skills by hunting squirrels with an AK-47. Hunting what are almost domesticated animals qualifies as hunting? This isn't hunting, it's a way to gather collectibles. Show up, pay your fee, and take home a mug for your collection. Some sport.

My family has traveled to Alaska for 2 summers now and had the time of our lives bearviewing in Katmai National Park this past summer. We realize hunting will be a part of society, but to allow 2 commercial endeavors to take place with the same animals is appalling. There is plenty of room in Alaska to hunt, so make it a fair hunt. Don't collect millions of dollars during one season to turn around and collect more money on the same animals. What a poor excuse for hunting. Hunters should be ashamed. This is nothing more than bait hunting. The animals didn't even have a chance.

What a disgusting display of selfish and unsportsman like idiocy. And I mean both the NPS and the hunters—I'm just not sure who piss me off more.

Hey Kurt and Jeremy could you get us some names and numbers of who in the NPS approved this public slaughter? I am in the process of contacting my Congressional representatives and would like more specific information if it is available.

Some cozy NPS careers should soon be in deep jeopardy, starting at the top with Mary Bomar. If after seeing this hideous display of mismanagement she does not act swiftly and severely then I am prepared to begin a campaign for her removal as the head of the agency. Whomever signed off on this disgusting spectacle must be censured or even removed from the responsibility of resource stewardship that has been entrusted to them.

This was appalling and exceedingly cruel. Who are the bozos in charge?

I enjoy fishing and have been to Katmai numerous times and to Lake Clark nearby but now I realize that it is unethical to fish or even visit these parks as long as they are going to allow hunting. These trophy hunters pay around $15,000 to hunt a bear so a guide can make $105,000 in a day. And a lot of these guides and hunters are from out of state many hunters are from other countries. Some one needs to talk to the Alaska Outdoors Council they are the biggest lobbists for these hunts, they are the key people behind all of this.

Like Chris I am mad!
I have had an air taxi out of homer for 40 years.I started taking people to see Bears at McNeil River in 1962,working for another outfit.
Never had anyone threatened by these animals...we didn't bother them and they didn;t bother us.
At each Game Board meeting in Anchorage we have pleaded for justice for these decent animals.
Lately we begged the Parks system to place these bears off limits...lately because of an overkill of bears in the area in which this movie was taken.
They can place the area off limits based on the overkill of past sasons...but they haven't.
I pointed out to them that they are,unlike the State of Alaska,answerable to all the people of the United States; it is a National Park!!
This is not stewardship.
The damage is done, to this area; hunters will find other easily hunted animals,and people to guide them and pilots to fly them.Blame the Outdoor Council,Alaska Board of Game,National Parks, and the owners of that land; us...!!

"Fair chase," my ass. These fat bastards are likely lazy Texans wankers who can't walk to the 7-11 let alone be alone with themselves and the bears in the backcountry.
The Park Service demonstrates again that this Bush Administration is the worst thing to happen to sportsmen since PETA. When will Republican sportsmen take their heads out of their asses and realize that these people are the worst enemy of all that is good about hunting and fishing. No more excuses--the sportsmen community must wake up and take responsibility--the more you elect these f***ing morons under the guise of the 2nd amendment, the more you get this kind of result. Disgusting.

Thanks Robert.......I was wondering how much graft it took to grease the proper paws at the local park offices.

P.S.- Life is indeed cheap.

You're absolutely correct John, we need to have a new interpretation of the 2nd amendment and the right to arm bears.

This reminds me of Timothy Tredwell (Grizzly Man) and what he was fighting against. The video is sickening.

I realize this site is more about impartial reporting of stories about national parks, but I would encourage the editors to turn into advocates on this issue. Perhaps the editors, contributers, and readers of NPT could send a unified letter and/or message to the appropriate managers and congressional representatives expressing our outrage and disgust and this blatant violation of the Organic Act and mismanagement of our national park.

As someone who lives in Alaska and who has testified at the last 2 board of game meetings on the hunting in this area- I can tell you the bottom line is its the Alaska Outdoors Council and the Board of Game (B.O.G.). Ron Summerville the former chair of the B.O.G. blames bear viewers for habituating these bears then complaining about hunting- well that means that only bear hunters can use these areas by his logic. You can't ethically fish or camp or bear view in these areas as long as the BOG allows this stuff to continue. Sarah Pallin said on the radio that she wouldn't allow bears that use McNeil River to be hunted. She clearly isn't living up to her promise because these bears very likely use McNeil.

Frank, you're going impartial on us? I'll give you my signature in advance of WHATEVER comments you all care to make on this issue. I don't believe that there could possibly exist too much language that I wouldn't stand behind on this pathetic, spineless, underhanded deal cut with another loony special interest group. How's that for a start?

I witnessed people doing the unspeakable and I will never forget it. This was a nightmare. While assisting Daniel Zatz, Chris and Ken Day, Scott Dickerson and Channel 2 Anchorage news on this disturbing trip, I saw what I knew had been happening for years, but didnt really grasp. This area serves as the late season feeding grounds for McNeil and katmai bears, mostly sows and cubs. The bears are all habituated to humans- they trust people. This "harvest" or slaughter acts as a population sink for the invaluable bears that constitute the booming bear viewing industry of the Alaska Peninsula. It is also cruel, unethical and inhumane.
The bear that was killed in the video was a beautiful female
who I assume likely would have had cubs next year. She was finishing up a good summer, and was very fat. She wandered right next to our camp several times eating berries, and slept in the bushes about 30 yards outside of our electric fence. This was valuable bear, much more valuable alive than dead. She was valuable as an individual. The bear viewing resource in this region is one of the most incredible wildlife jewels on the planet. Only when you make eye contact with such a bear and feel the mutual trust between you and the bear can you grasp how special and rare she really was.
On the 1st we watched a party of 3 walk up to her as she carried a fish up the bank of the lake. She was oblivious to their presence until, at 20 yards or less, one man let an arrow go into her chest. The guide put two bullets into her before she disappeared into the grass and came our direction. She stood up and looked at us with a look of sheer terror 20 yards away before hiding in the alders. The guide found her and shot her 4 more times. We filmed and watched all this while set up 10 feet from our camp. The bear was killed 50 yards or less away. We then saw them gut her like a catfish, leaving the white carcass to attract more bears for the next day's hunt. I hope her hide looks good on someone's wall.
We saw and heard at least half a dozen bears killed on the 1st. As soon as first light came bullets echoed across Narrow Cove and from Battle Creek. My heart sank deeper than ever before. From the air when we left we saw bears fishing and eating berries right next to the ominous tent camps, people were skinning bears, hunting parties stalked the hills, and white bear carcasses were floating in the lake. It was a massacre. It bothered me more than I even could have imagined. I hope this can be stopped.

This is not hunting--this is a slaughter. Many of these bears have become habituated to humans through their exposure to visitors at McNeil River Game Sanctuary. In good conscience, they should be protected. Clearly, when they leave McNeil River, the behavior they learned around humans there is just as shown in the video. They are not afraid of people. Some hunters have proclaimed to the Alaska Board of Game that the bears lose this behavior as soon as they leave McNeil. The videos document the truth. Katmai Park and Preserve should be off limits to bear hunting to prevent this slaughter and provide a sanctuary to these incredibly special bears. They are a world treasure.

This a dispicable practice. They are shooting habituated bears. There is no fair chase involved in such a "hunt". Hunting brown bears should be prohibitted in Katmai Preserve and the adjacent Park.

Mary Bomar can you read this? You had better be doing something about this shooting gallery of a bear slaughter real quick or you will have the wrath of the American public raining down on your head.

Again what kind of stewardship is this?

Beamis, let's keep the coals burning on this one. No one hangs loose on this one. Ms. Bomar it's your skin and hide now... in the courts. I can see these jerks laughing as they skin the poor animal. Yap! a big booze night for the jerks and you can hear them slurring in there slobber speech about the BIG KILL. John, I sense your anger and it's good as mine. I think your on to something about the Texan mentality of hunting. Remember, the Dick Cheney texas fiasco...safari land Texas style!?

I suggest a multi-faceted approach. In most Native American lore, and from my studies it applies in this specific geography, the bear is a creature to be treated with the highest level of respect accorded to ANY of the Great Father's creations, and NEVER hunted, especially as a food source. Killing a bear, except under the most extreme and strictly defined circumstances is to bring unbelieveable bad fortune upon the slayer. While we're frittering away time contacting elected officials, NPS administrators and other governing bodies, how about contacting the Katmai, Denali, Inuit, etc. and asking for their particluar brand of intervention? There isn't a shaman worth his salt that wouldn't take up this cause. From what I understand, this local justice should be far more severe and swifter than the squeeky wheels of government non-action will be.

Shamanic justice? I'm all for for appealing to higher authorities.

There are limits in sports and this style of sport has crossed into "no man's land". This may require a compromise this year, but it must make a distinct impact to get change started. The dialogues must begin. Keep writing and speaking and sharing and emailing and blogging. Social boundaries have been violated but made to appear legal by those in power, to make those decisions. Nothing is right if it's not right with a democratic society. It speaks volumes about who we are as a species, not just Americans. Every cell in this body is responding to the urgency to stand up.

Beamis, may justice be swift. In my tribe we scalp them clean below the belt for such a terrible crime for killing sacred bear. Shaman justice is best punishment!

First off, I fully support hunting of all animals in a sustainable manner.

In my opinion, this is not, by any stretch of the word, hunting. This is the wanton wasteful killing of a habituated animal and must be condemned. Travel to another region where the bears are not accustomed to mankind and hunt bears.

These degenerates should be named in public and beaten.

What's the problem? Plenty to go around,

Dear Chris, after reading Jim's letter to Marcia Blaszak i already had a very bad feeling. But now , after having received your mail and
after having read your and Jim's articles i am realy feeling miserable and . A couple of days ago we were still watching all the photo's and the video that we took in Katmai and we were telling everyone this was the most beautiful experience in our life. Now i am not sure what's left of that feeling. Everytime i look at a picture now i just wander if this bear has been "slaughtered" in the meanwhile. Are we now part of this "slaughter" ? Is it because of people like us who make bears feel comfortable around people that those things can happen this way. Chris, i can only remember that you told me to look for eye contact with those amazing creatures and just let it come over you. . Now i just wonder if those hunters (if you can call them hunters in the real meaning of that word) also have eye contacts when they shoot bears from less than 10 yards. You must be a real man to do this. It's like beating children who cannot defend themselves. It really takes a lot of guts to kill bears like that. Brad Josephs comment realy proves this.
If we , here in Belgium , already feel sad, mad, i do not know what we feel right now after having watched this video than i can imagine how hard it must be for people like you Chris and Ken , and all those who are trying to stop all this.
Chris and Ken, we think of you and your struggle and we hope one day people will choose for "reason". (the only animal killing just for fun is the human kind !!!)

While it may appear on the surface that I jest, my person experience suggests that the most effective way to beat a system is to launch attacks from as many fronts as possible, and you can almost assure that one of the angles will meet with success. There are many avenues available to explore, and this is a rather bizarre alternative to be sure. But no less viable than resorting to PETA, public opinion, government agencies, other animal rights groups, international groups, ethical sportsmen's associations, preservationist and environmentalists, who might be appealed to regarding the issues of open season being launched in populace areas. Data would be useful regarding the historical status of this particular bear population, and the latest trends in the herd insofar as its stability, or lack thereof. Also, correlations need to be drawn and plotted between in relation to the hypothetical impact that elimination of a top preditor will impact the local ecosystem. These data should be readily available through land management reports and be easily verified by local animal biologists. What really raises my blood pressure is that all these efforts will be after the fact now, as it's too late to alter the immediate impact that this senseless massacre will have on the short-term ability of the species to recover its numbers. I understand that the article, states, Biology aside (there are many bears in this area), , but what are the specific numbers. "Many" is a relative term. And in most ecosystems, large numbers of one species are generally required to keep the system of checks and balances regulated amongst the entire system. Is there any information about specific numbers of killing licenses permitted for this particular season? As a result, what will the final tally be?

I was troubled before. Now, I'm feeling ill. These are allegedly representative of my own kind allowing and partaking in this?

I have watched this video and now that my nausea has subsided enough for me to type I am going to state some facts I honestly believe to be true.
I live in Texas, but I was born in Alaska. I spend every available minute I have hiking our national and state parks, as I believe they are our greatest natural resource. I am also an outings chair with the Sierra Club. There are no hunters in the video, only a disgusting group of a subhuman species that are carrying weapons. This is no more of a hunt than ordering fish at a restaurant would be called fishing. I believe true hunters would find this as disgusting as I do. Sometimes calling attention to the inappropriate actions of others that share your interests can be very effective at stopping that inappropriate action. I am going to send emails to the editors of hunting magazines such as "Field and Stream", "Bowhunter", & "Outdoors" and send them a link to this video. I am going to ask them if this is the type of behavior they would like to be associated with their sport. I am going to send this link to everyone I know and ask them to send it to everyone they know. Then I am going to send emails to the National Park Service and ask them the same questions. Last but not least I am going to send a real old fashioned snail mail letter to Mary A. Bomar, Director National Park Service and let her know she is most responsible for allowing this despicable behavior on her watch.

I feel sick to my stomach. I've been there and I remember many of the bears' antics... as a matter of fact I wish there had been more activity. A lot of the bears were just grazing on sedges... like cattle. Several bears even walked up to us as close as 15 feet. The twisted logic of 'TROPHY' hunting needs to be dealt with in the higher courts and by people ceasing to be afraid to speak up.

Here is a link to an essay describing the deep seated roots of hunting and "The Changing Role of Hunting in North America Conservation." Of particular note, there is a description of the urbanite big game hunter, considered the largest pool of hunters today.

The dialogue about "The Changing Role of Hunting in North American Conservation" is worthy of greater public discussion.

A very strong point in the article was made about the morality of hunting. It seems the hunting community recognizes the scrutiny for moral reasons. The article supports the endeavours of subsistence hunting but evades support for the trophy style hunting, even though it may be the largest pool of hunters today.

A few figures below suggests the system isn't suffering from a lack of dollars from the community, and it would be hard pressed to announce a grand need for dollars from the Katmai region. The dollars from Katmai must be a tiny percentage, yet contrasted to the loss experienced these past few days needs to be more fully expressed. The morally questionable style of hunting, the insignificant economic gain, and the public unrest qualify as one big flashing red light.

"Hunting and fishing license fees and excise taxes on firearms provide $2 billion a year in funding that is indispensable. Recent surveys show that influence has not diminished. The Government receives another $1.4 billion (1996) in state income tax revenue and $1.7 billion in federal income tax. In 1996 (a new survey will be out this time next year), the federal income tax revenue alone was nearly twice the 1996 budgets of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Biological Service and National Park Service combined! (Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates and Melinda Gable of Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.) "The combination of hunters to wildlife agencies' conservation mission are long, wide, and deep." No one has ever restored more wildlife. Hunters were and continue to be the force behind "the greatest environmental success story of the twentieth century," according to Valerious Geist and many scholars."

I would like to raise another question in regards to the agencies who seem "very comfortable" with the sound science that supports that the number of bears taken in this region (about 30 bears a year) is reasonable. One should remember that bears are extremely complex, intelligent animals, with a vast memory of how and when to access food sources. They state that biologists flew over this unit in August and counted a bear for every square mile, and that this density is "high." Bears are not necessarily resident creatures with a set home range- their location varies with a vast number of factors. For example, I know from working on the Katmai Coast this summer that there was a failure
of many crucial fish runs, namely the pink salmon runs of july
and August in dozens of river systems. The bears, especially the sows with cubs, and single, fertilized sows, did not get the calories they needed during the early summer. The high country lakes and rivers of the Preserve provide the last late fish runs and some of the most productive berry crops for the
bears who need the calories the most. I beg the question,
did the August survey of bear numbers represent a growing population, or an influx of transient bears who traveled long distances from the Katmai Coast and only 25 miles from McNeil River who were trying to compensate for food source limitations in other regions? Can we be sure? I beg managers to be extremely careful as grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals. If we make a mistake and overharvest, it takes a long time for the populations to recover. These populations are too valuable for mistakes to be made. Is it worth the risk? I hope managers consider Chris and Ken's valuable anecdotal data that supports a drastic drop in bear numbers in the preserve. The issue of ethical hunting is a less viable point. This is an issue of overharvest through mismanagement. SHould hunters be killing single sows? Should there be a harvest cap on the hunt? Should the season be rolled back to mid october? Should the population survey techniques be scrutinized to the fullest degree? YES!

Thanks to all for your passionate comments-Ken and I along with many others have fought this for years through the agency channels to no avail - hopefully this public outcry will make a difference. PLEASE though lets redirect our ire from the hunters, of whom there are many good, ethical men and women who are as shocked and abhorred as we are that this is happening; we need to direct all of this energy to the agencies who can make a difference. The ADFG has it's hands tied-there are lots of bears in the GMU that this area is part of-it isn't a matter of bears being threatened as a species-it is this small population of very important, habituated bears where the problem lies. This has to go to the Federal level-this is a National Preserve-contact she is the Superintendent of Alaska National Parks, contact your congresspeople-let them know that you are not happy about the way this area is being managed-they may write back that this is a state issue-not true-while the state and the parks co-manage this area the parks has the final authority. It will be through these agencies that we effect a change-not by bashing hunters.

So far the outrage is white hot. Keep blowing on the coals people. This is the one case of gross mismanagement that might actually produce some heads on a platter and maybe even some real accountability to a mostly unaccountable agency.

I am a naturalist of the Bear Clan Totem.
I had a good cry over this.

The blogging served to sound emotions.
The karma of those involved will be swift indeed.

Now we must take action to protect the bears.

It is very disheartening to learn that you who have been most closely involved with this issue have pleaded repeatedly to no avail. Chris and Bill de Creeft, your comments are well taken that it this is a National Park and perhaps it will take the outrage of the Nation in general to affect a change. As you pointed out Bill, this land belongs to us - as well as it's natural inhabitants.

In Haleakala National Park in Hawaii recently a moratorium was called on a commercial biking venture in that park in response to the resulting number of accidents.

Surely, if we raise our unified voices now, we can affect some similar action.

In Jim Stratton's article re: the formal request of August 2007 to decrease the limit of these majestic creatures allowed to be hunted and killed in Katmai specifically, there appears a graph chart clearly showing the decline in sightings and the increase in killing. This piece of information alone should stand as a testimony to the need to rethink these practices, particularly since it states on the National Parks Service website that the very presence of these wonderful bears, in large part, inspired the creation of Katmai Preserve to begin with!

In addition to writing to Marcia Blaszak, as Chris suggests, (Thank You Chris!) I propose that we draft a letter as a representation of the general consensus of concerned American citizens and taxpayers, to be sent to:

The National Parks Service
Alaska Region of Parks Services
the Outdoor Council
Alaska Board of Game

And to the congresspeople who represent each of us (who partake in this process).

In this letter we will Demand a Cease and Desist or a Moratorium (or what ever language of the concensus fits)
of these hunting practices until a sound and effective management policy can be established that is in the highest good of all.

We can collect as many signatures as possible in a three to five day period and get the ball rolling right away!

Are you with me?


The NPS has a long history of ignoring the Organic Act's command to protect parks' wildlife. This is just the latest in a century-long history of needlessly destroying animals, although this time the NPS is allowing the destruction rather than carrying it out, but both are equally detestable.

Sirs: what you witnessed was what I have seen all my life these so called hunters are not sportsmen they are cheaters and if you could look at what they have done their whole lives you would see they have cheated at everything weather it be their work, sports, or familey the commen thread will be they took the short cut, cheated, and they are lazy. the only thing they excell at is bragging how great of a hunter they are. The people involved in bringing these so called hunters into the area are motavated by greed they are also cowards and of course cheaters. As for the park service the people who are there standing by and allowing this to happen need to be fired. One can only wonder how all these people involved in this will justify themselves when they stand in front of God and he asks if they felt they did the right thing to his bears.

Not only equally detestable Frank, but by acting in assentia as the agent of destruction for sanctioning the killings by regulating the issuance of permits, they are both compliant and co-conspirators in the actual act.

My deepest sympathy for you and your brothers whom these "hunters" have deeply offended. I am in no small manner highly embarrassed to be part of the same race that is carrying out this action. ANYTHING that is within my power, be it letter writing, signature collecting, fundraising, or the like, you have my complete cooperation. We must ensure that this current travesty is absolutely the FINAL chapter, and in the fight against legalized slaughter of one of the park's finest creatures, we cannot and WILL NOT remain silent. Post your requests and watch the response.....

Looks like the folks at Fish and Game think people come to Alaska each year to go to a zoo and hunt bears. Wake up the dollars come to the state to see alive bears, why dont we hunt bears from airplanes, and at least make it sporting.

Brad: Thank you for a very thoughtful post. I work in the field on the coast of bc with the bears and it's refreshing to hear someone speak about the challenges the bears faced with the lack of salmon spawning. Is there someone in Katmai who photo id's the bears and records their return year after year?

I wrote to the Bear League who does great work in the Tahoe area.

(If you don't know anything about them, check out this link about a recent bear rescue -- simply amazing what people who care can do in a hurry to make a difference.)

Personally I'm glad to see something that perhaps all of us here can rally around. I can't wait until these creeps' names come out into the public domain.

If our country has a national bird, why not a national mammal as well? Only when we start seeing grizzlies on the dollar bill next to the eagle will they get the respect they deserve. They should be strictly off limits.

I am not very good at expressing myself but I have to say that the Bear Hunting in this manner is very inhumane. It just shows how insecure some men are that they have to prove to everyone how macho they are with the hide and head of a unsuspecting and trusting animal.
Hunting for food is a necessary evil in some parts of our world, but this is just plain barberic

The management of wildlife is mostly paid for by funds that come from hunting and fishing. Just what percent of a bear viewers money spent in Alaska go to the management of these bears? NONE

Without the funds from hunters and fishermen these animals would not be there to view. Maybe you should look at why are these bears so humanized, move the viewing stands away from the river.

Go to any river bears are fishing on and you can walk up on them the same way. It's not that they are used to people, they are there to eat.

What kind of humans are these? Given the talent and sportsmanship required for this killing, why don't these guys just go hunt at the zoo? This is ridiculous.

Sir: Even after posting a comment last night in protest as to what the park service is allowing to happen to the bears, I could not sleep. Being a hunter, sportmen, I felt ashamed when I saw what is happening in Alaska to the bears. My God where is the park service? have they stopped this? what are they doing to protect these bears?. The persons responsible for the care and protection of these bears must be aware of this so called hunting of bears and need to be held accountable for their lack of action.
This is one time I would have to line up on the side of the tree huggers and say this is just plain wrong.

Here is a link that people may want to read to brush up on the history of bear management at Katmai. If you're going to be an advocate for something, you gotta know your history too.

And a link to Jim Stratton's letter this summer to Marcia Blaszak, Alaska Region Director for NPS.

One thing that really struck me from reading this -- this was federally protected land long before Alaska became a state. Since statehood in 1959, Alaska seems to have bullied the feds into letting the state game board dictate what's going on. Knowing the scruples of Alaska politicians these days, wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot of campaign donation influence and flat-out bribery going on up there. You can only imagine how corrupt something like a "state game board" must be -- with all the rich boy hunters running around up in Alaska... Hey Uncle Ted, got anything to say on the matter? What, no comment?

Who should we write to? Who can change this?

Oddly enough, Merryland, Alaskans just selected a fishing brown bear as the symbol to put on our quarter. It's a live brown bear with a salmon in its jaws, not a dead bear on the wall.