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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Alaska Board of Game Meeting Begins

Jason Moore / KTUU-TV / February 27, 2009

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Alaska Board of Game kicked off its two-week meeting in Anchorage Friday.

During the meeting, the board will consider nearly 250 proposals that would change wildlife management on issues such as predator control, wolverine trapping and hunting bears and wolves in national preserves.

The board is meeting at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center, and spent Thursday listening to speakers trying to influence their votes on practices such as wolverine trapping in Chugach State Park.

"Opening Chugach to wolverine trapping in 2007 was a mistake and the board now has the opportunity to reverse that mistake," said Bill Sherwonit with the group Friends of the Chugach.

Since wolverine trapping was made legal, trappers have taken 10 animals.

The Department of Fish and Game thought there were only about 20 taken in the entire park, and the department also wants the trapping stopped. But trapping advocates disagree.

"If it's a biological issue and we're not sure that the data's there that shows that, then we would say that restriction or a lessening of the season," said Rod Arno with the Alaska Outdoor Council. "But we are vehemently opposed to just taking species out and saying you won't be able to trap in state parks."

For the next few days the board will hear public testimony, and will then begin deciding on the issues.

One issue includes a recent boost in harvest limits in national preserves to increase moose numbers.

"This manipulation of wildlife populations is fundamentally in conflict with National Park Service management policies," said Jim Stratton with the National Parks Conservation Association.

But board members say while the allowable harvest increased, the actual harvest didn't.

"When I looked at the harvest in those areas in most years there was no harvest," board member Ted Spraker said. "Some years there was a wolf taken or a bear taken but there were absolutely no conservation concerns."

"You don't wait until there is an impact from doing something illegal until you take action, 'cause if that was the case you and I could go steal bubble gum from Carrs. It doesn't impact their bottom line, does that make it not illegal? Well of course not," Stratton said.

"Stratton's just getting ready either to go to court or hope that the new Obama administration will give the anti's a little more leg up to try to stop any type of predator-prey management," Arno said.

The board remains dominated by advocates of aggressive predator management, and over the next two weeks it will consider adopting more aggressive means to kill wolves and bears, so moose can thrive.

Among the methods included in some of the proposals are ways to trap black bears without snaring brown bears, and what are described as "carbon monoxide bombs" to be thrown into wolves' dens to kill pups if the adults were killed in one of the control programs.

Contact Jason Moore at jmoore@ktuu.com

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