ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The state Board of Game this afternoon reversed its 2005 decision to allow bear hunting in an area near the popular McNeil River bear viewing site.
There was something to be happy about for both animal advocates and hunters today. But the bottom line in today's hearing was that things will remain as they have been in that area.
Hunters will essentially be allowed to hunt bears where they were able to last year, and they will be prohibited from hunting in the same areas they were last year as well.
The Board of Game today decided to reverse an opening proposed for this fall in the Kamishak special use area.
The Kamishak boarders the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, a popular bear viewing spot. But Game also decided to keep other areas near the sanctuary open to hunting, including the McNeil River State Game Refuge and Katmai National Preserve, where hunting will remain open for brown bears.
Animal activists claim the refuge and Katmai should be closed to hunting because it intrudes on other uses, a claim hunters say they don't buy.
"That area where the bears are taken even during this time has little or no pressure from fishermen and absolutely no pressure from viewers because viewers are out closer to the ocean," said Steve Flory, who sits on the Anchorage Board of Game Advisory Committee.
"We are in favor of the proposal to push the hunting back so that the fishermen and the wildlife viewers have a longer season to enjoy," said Tom Banks, an Alaska associate of the Defenders of Wildlife.
A lot of the issues have to deal with overlapping boundaries of state and federal refuges, something that has been left over by land deals dating back to statehood and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
The state had projected between 15 and 20 bears a year to be taken by hunters in that area. However, more than twice that many were taken last year, and that's something the state and animal activists say they will keep an eye on.