Anchorage, Alaska - No matter where you travel in the world, no matter how remote it seems, you can mention you are from Alaska and watch everyone's face light up with recognition. People everywhere know Alaska is cold and dark, and they also know of its beauty and wildlife. Invariably, they say how much they would like to visit Alaska someday whether they actually have the means to do so or not. With all the interest people have in coming here, one must wonder why the governor needs to spend $150,000 of your tax money promoting Alaska and Alaskans to those outside. Strange, isn't it? Well, to get an idea of why this is necessary one needs look no further than the State's predator control program.
In 1996 and 2000 Alaska residence voted by ballot initiative and referendum to eliminate or restrict the use of aerial hunting to control the wolf population. In both cases the legislature overturned these initiatives and reinstated aerial hunting of wolves. A poll taken in 1998 while the legislature was overturning the 1996 ballot initiative showed that over 70% of residence didn't want the legislature to overturn the measure. This is higher than the 59% who voted in favor of eliminating aerial hunting in 1996.
In 2004 an overwhelming majority of Alaskans favored restricting the practice of bear baiting which allows hunters to shoot and kill bears eating food intentionally left in the open. The measure was narrowly defeated after a massive media campaign by pro-hunting organizations.
In 2005 the State Board of Game highlighted its intentions of allowing bear hunting in and around the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary beginning in 2007. Though this is one of the few areas in the state where bear viewing takes priority over hunting, and somewhere over 80% of Alaskans are against bear hunting in this region, the State seems adamant to progress and allow hunting to take place.
With all this support from within the state to limit hunting of predators in Alaska one would think that the State would be curtailing predator control initiatives. Instead, the State's Board of Game seems to be doing all it can to increase predator control.
Several methods approved or are under consideration by the Board include: expanding the aerial wolf hunting program; expanding the use of snow machines to chase, harass and kill wolves; allow the baiting of wolves; expanding bear control programs; eliminating permit fees; extending the hunting seasons and relaxing limits on the number of bears and wolves that individual hunters are allowed to kill. That's just what the State wants to do in black and white. When you put it into numbers it takes on a whole new meaning.
Since aerial hunting was reinstated in 2003 over 500 wolves have been killed by this method while another 4,500 have been killed by other means. The State wants to see another 400 wolves killed by aerial hunters in addition to the killing of approximately 1,500 wolves a year by hunters chasing and killing them using snow machines or by trapping. This is from a total Alaska wolf population estimated to be between 7,000 - 11,000.
In some areas, the State wants to see the wolves practically eliminated. In game management unit 16A it wants to see the wolf population reduced from 39-55 to 8-15 and in game management unit 14A & B it wants to see the population reduced from around 200 to 35. There are no limits to the number of wolves that can be killed by trapping and in some cases hunters are allowed to kill up to ten wolves per day.
For bears the picture isn't much better. Bear baiting in Alaska accounts for approximately 650 black bears killed a year though 18 of 27 states that allow bear hunting don't allow bear baiting. Another 1,800 are killed through other means excluding those killed for being considered nuisance bears or hit by vehicles. The Department of Fish and Game suggests the number of unreported bears killed could be double the official number. This is before additional measures being taken by the Board of Game to increase the killing of black bears are implemented.
For brown bears, in addition to new hunting in the McNeil River the Board of Game approved a plan to allow hunters sell fur from bears in order to boost the number killed. Since 2005, baiting of brown bears is allowed in game management area 20E where the State wants to kill 81 of an estimated 135 bears. The total reported brown bears killed each year is approximately 1,500 excluding those killed for being considered nuisance bears or hit by vehicles. This, again, is before additional measures being taken by the Board of Game to increase the killing of brown bears are implemented.
There clearly is a focus on eliminating predators in Alaska by the State or at least marginalizing them as they have been in the rest of the country. The question is why? The majority of visitors to Alaska come for the chance to see wildlife, not to kill them. The majority of Alaskans favor limiting predator control, not increasing it. Why is the State running so contrary to public opinion? Straying so far from public opinion is probably why the governor needs to spend $150,000 to improve the image of Alaska outside the state. Clearly the focus has skewed too far to one side of the debate.
I am not an outside interest. I am not some obscure, suspiciously well funded, organization from the lower 48 up here to protect someone else's viewpoint. I live right here in Alaska and I'm tired of being told my opinion on this issue doesn't count. I'm tired of being bullied into believing my right to have stricter use of predator control programs is not valid. It is time for me to stand up for what I believe is right and coincidentally what most of Alaskans believe is right. This is why I am running for the legislature. If elected, I will be the lone minority voice in the legislature that is speaking for the majority of Alaskans. I don's seek an end to hunting, but want to see a more reasonable approach taken to predator control in order to protect the rights of non-hunters, hunters, wildlife viewers and others who haven't been to Alaska but dream of coming.
For further information please visit mikekoy.com or contact Mike Koy at 907 250-7169.