The Alaska Board of Game will decide this weekend whether to broaden the state's predator control program.
The Game Board began a three-day meeting in Anchorage on Friday to take up 20 proposals that it tabled during its March meeting in Fairbanks. Most of the proposals are aimed at killing more bears and wolves to increase the number of moose and caribou for sport and subsistence hunters throughout the state.
The proposal list includes same-day airborne hunting of black bears over bait and expanding aerial wolf-control programs to allowing the sale of grizzly and black bear hides.
"The proposals cover an awful lot of things," said Cathie Harms, public information officer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.
The three-day meeting is an extension of an 11-day Fairbanks meeting the Game Board had in March. Rather than deal with predator control issues at that meeting, the Game Board elected to give the department more time to gather and compile the biological information needed to properly evaluate proposals.
The top order of business for the board will be reviewing the five existing wolf-control programs already under way in different parts of the state, Harms said.
The Game Board adopted emergency regulations in January in response to a decision by a Superior Court judge in Anchorage that halted aerial wolf-control programs in five places. Acting on a lawsuit filed by Connecticut-based animal right's group Friends of Animals, a judge ruled that the Game Board did not follow its own rules in approving the programs and had not considered all alternatives besides aerial killing. The Game Board then held an emergency meeting to adopt new, improved regulations that satisfied the legal shortcomings and resurrected aerial wolf-control in all five areas.
The emergency regulations expire at the end of the this month and the Game Board must decide whether to make them permanent or adopt new ones, said Harms.
For three years, the state has issued permits in selected areas for private pilots and gunners to shoot wolves from airplanes or to land and shoot them. A total of 564 wolves have been killed in three years.
But the Department of Fish and Game and local advisory committees are asking the Game Board to expand some of the existing programs and to initiate new wolf-control programs in at least three other areas.
The Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee is requesting predator control programs that would allow hunters to land and shoot wolves and use snowmachines to hunt them down in Game Management Units 14B in the Matanuska Valley and 16A west of Cook Inlet, where the advisory committee says moose populations have declined dramatically.
The Game Board will also consider a proposal to implement a predator control plan for the Delta Caribou Herd in Unit 20A south of Fairbanks.
The Department of Fish and Game submitted a proposal to expand the existing wolf-control program in units 12 and 20E to cover the entire range of the Fortymile Caribou Herd, which biologists say is being held in check by wolf predation.
"The growth of that herd has stopped and the reason is more animals are dying," said Harms. "We're relatively confident that the increase in mortality is due to predation."
The department is proposing to expand the existing aerial wolf control program in Units 12 and 20E and annex parts of Units 20B, 20D and 25C into the plan.
The Alaska Bowhunters Association is asking the board to allow same-day airborne hunting of black bears over bait stations in certain remote areas to increase the harvest of black bears in areas accessible mainly by airplane.
Having to wait several hours to hunt after they land discourages pilots from setting up bait stations in remote areas and the result is that most baiting in the state is done near roads or rivers, the bowhunting group wrote in its proposal.
News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry can be reached at 459-7587 or email@example.com