Making killing wolf pups official practice goes too far and isn't what most Alaskans want to see happen in our state.
The extreme approach that Governor Palin and her hand-picked Board of Game are taking when it comes to predator control is increasingly out of control and could damage our state's credibility and economy.
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The latest meeting of Alaska's Board of Game has concluded, resulting in new policies that could have a profound impact on the wildlife that makes our state so special. Below is a brief recap of the Board's decisions on key issues affecting Alaska wildlife...
Denning of Pups and Cubs
As you may know, this summer Alaska Department of Fish and Game employees shot 14 wolf pups in the head at their den sites on the southern Alaska peninsula.
At the Board of Game meeting this month, the Department had a chance to address the strong public opposition to killing wolf pups and assure us that they would not do it again. Instead, they did just the opposite!
They took the unthinkable step of approving this brutal practice, known as "denning," as a procedure that can be used by employees in the future.
In another disturbing development, the Board approved denning of female black bears and cubs using artificial lights noting that denning is a traditional harvest method for native villagers in this particular region.
Denning of black bears should be allowed only by permit for villagers with a historical harvest. So why is the Board of Game allowing everyone -- including out-of-state and urban hunters -- to participate in the brutal practice of denning black bears?
Defenders and many of our allies believe that denning of wolves or bears is illegal under state law and we will continue to fight the Board's efforts to authorize this brutal and unnecessary practice.
More on Black Bears
The Board also failed to address an important conservation concern in the southeastern part of the state. The harvest of black bears in this region has increased so dramatically in the last few years that the overall health of the black bear population is at risk.
In some areas, 80% of the black bears harvested were by out-of-state trophy hunters! Other states typically allow no more than 10% non-resident participation in any given hunt.
Local residents, alarmed at the over-harvesting and the excessive participation of out-of-state hunters, asked the Board of Game to limit non-resident participation in the black bear hunt. But the Board rejected every request to limit non-resident hunters -- a move that clearly demonstrates their allegiance to the powerful commercial hunting lobby.
The Good News
On the flip side, the Board of Game voted to require hunters to submit GPS coordinates on all baiting stations statewide and to require trappers to continue including identification tags on traps -- two decisions that will help ensure safety around trails, reduce user group conflicts and help officials enforce bear baiting and trapping regulations.
The Future of the Board of Game Depends on Diversity
Managing our wildlife resources for the benefit of all Alaskans requires top-notch science, broad representation and plenty of transparency in the policy-making process. Unfortunately, Governor Palin's chronic failure to appoint qualified candidates to the Board of Game that will represent the needs and priorities of all Alaskans shows where her real loyalties lie -- not with the people of Alaska or her Constitutional responsibilities, but with the powerful commercial hunting industry to which she is beholden.
The terms of two members of the 7-member Board of Game will expire this coming March and Governor Palin will have an opportunity to bring representation to all Alaskans and fulfill her Constitutional duty to ensure diversity and balance on this influential non-elected board.
With the eyes of the world on Alaska following Palin's unsuccessful bid for the Vice Presidency, it is even more important to ensure our state leaders pursue policies we can be proud of as Alaskans. And with your help, we'll continue to work hard to make that happen.
We'll have our work cut out for us in the days ahead. But for now, I want to wish a safe and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Defenders of Wildlife