As of July 1, hunters may be able to pick off human-oriented bears near McNeil River Falls.
Anchorage, Alaska - It's an area packed with bears and the tourists who enjoy watching them splashing around, feeding on salmon.
But as of July 1, the McNeil River bears that have interacted with humans for 22 years may become fair game for hunters.
Two years ago, the state Board of Game approved a 2007 bear hunt just seven miles away from the McNeil Falls.
It's a decision the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and its supporters hope to reverse.
The McNeil River bears at Katmai National Park & Preserve are among the most reconizable to Alaska tourists.
More than 500 letters, written by wildlife watchers and hunters alike, were dropped off at Fish and Game today, arguing that hunting bears so close to McNeil River doesn't make moral sense.
"These bears have been photographed by thousands of people. They are totally human-tolerant. To hunt these bears would simply be a matter of walking up to them within 15 feet and shooting. We don't think this is ethically or biologically sound," said Alaska Wildlife Alliance director John Toppenberg.
Sherry Wright, who works for the Fish and Game Department, said the letters will be abstracted for board members, but welcomed additional testimony.
"Other people who want to put public testimony in front of the board, they can write it up and bring 20 copies to the board meetings that are going to take place (March 2 through March 12) at the Coast International Inn," Wright said.
Oral comment will also be accepted during the first few days of the meeting.
Alaska Wildlife Alliance director John Toppenberg