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Death Just Proves Bear Hair Salons Not a Good Solution

Compass: Points of view from the community

Nina Cornett / Anchorage Daily News / July 5, 2007

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's plan to bleach and dye fur on Russian River bears is supposed to make people safer by having some way to identify "problem" bears. If you strip away the politically correct language, the crux is that the plan will make it easier for Fish and Game to know which bears to shoot.

The upshot of this "hairdresser" plan of management is that we have a dead bear. The fact is that one bear has already died under this plan. That is one bear more than might have died on the Russian this year if we hadn't had the plan. If Fish and Game continues to dart every bear that comes to the Russian, we likely will have more bear deaths just from the darting activity.

The fact is that bears come to salmon streams. If bears have come more often in recent years, then I submit that the decrease in habitat on the Kenai is more to blame than fish carcasses. Between this and the aggressive bear reduction efforts by Fish and Game, we may, in the not-far-distant future, face a Kenai with no brown bears.

Alaska is full of hazards -- earthquakes, avalanches, wild rivers, freezing oceans, mountains, cliffs, ice, bears and moose. For most of us, that is part of the appeal that makes the place what it is. If not for that, why not live in Nebraska?

Without natural hazards, Alaska would be a much different and less desirable state. Most of us are here because we like it the way it is and want to keep it wild. When we venture outside we know, or should know, that there are hazards and that it is incumbent on us to act responsibly and exercise common sense.

But increasingly over the years, the government has begun to assume responsibility for choices individuals make. What has developed is an extensive, expensive rescue establishment for people who voluntarily undertake activities -- climbing, boating, hunting, hiking, etc. -- that involve risk.

Bears are not by any means the greatest threat to people in this state. But Fish and Game appears, at least on the Russian, to have assumed the task of defending every individual who comes to the Russian River against bears. Not only is it an impossible task, but it will lead people to become dependent when they should be accepting responsibility for their own safety. What Fish and Game and the state need to do is to relax a little and let people take responsibility for their own actions.

Nina Cornett lives in Cooper Landing.

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