Alaska's McNeil River supports the largest concentration of wild brown bears in the world, protected, in part, by the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, the McNeil River State Game Refuge and Katmai National Park. The sanctuary is one of the world's major sites for viewing or photographing brown bears and is the source of much tourism with economic returns to Alaska. Hunting of brown bears and all other wildlife species is prohibited by law in the McNeil Sanctuary and Katmai National Park.
These bears migrate widely within and outside the sanctuary. Unfortunately, their numbers have significantly decreased in the past five years for reasons not well understood but potentially due to an increase in legal hunting in the surrounding area.
The Alaska Board of Game, with supported from the Alaska Outdoor Council, has plans to allow hunting of brown bears within the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, the McNeil River State Game Refuge and nearby areas. The bears of this area are habituated to humans and would be easy targets for hunters.
Many Alaskans are very much opposed to the killing of brown bears within the McNeil Game Sanctuary and the State Game Refuge. It is time to let Alaska's politicians know that the Board of Game must consider the interests of all Alaskans when it comes to targeting bears in the McNeil River Sanctuary.
Walter A. Glooschenko / Anchorage