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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Game Board Actions Unscientific, Extreme

Letters / Juneau Empire / April 13, 2009

Ted Spraker's recent column on predator control proves that the Game Board's recent actions are unscientific and extreme (Predator management benefits all, Juneau Empire, April 7). Many people oppose the Board's unnecessary and drastic measures. They think the Board is out of touch with most Alaskans.

Since 2003, the Board has approved the largest predator control program since statehood. It encompasses nearly 70,000 square miles - an area larger than many states - and annually targets hundreds of wolves and bears for elimination. The clear intent is to benefit hunters, not those who otherwise enjoy wildlife, as Spraker suggests. And many of those hunters are urban dwellers and nonresidents, not rural subsistence users.

Is predator control based on sound science? Not according to hundreds of scientists who twice contacted the governor and asked to re-evaluate the scientific basis of the program. And not according to a professional society of biologists that three times opposed the program.

Are the methods of reducing predators widely accepted? Not unless people think killing young wolf pups in dens with poison gas and shooting young bear cubs or mothers with cubs is OK. Many people oppose aerial shooting, but each winter more than one hundred private pilots obtain permits to do it. Snaring of bears is so controversial that it has never before been legal.

Is predator control necessary, indeed mandated by the Constitution and state law as proponents claim? Quite the contrary. Alaska has had abundant wildlife in the past without declaring war on predators. During the eight-year administration of Tony Knowles, there were no active predator control programs, yet hunters took about the same number of moose that they take now.

Many Alaskans support abundant wildlife populations of all species, including predators, but oppose poorly justified, large-scale programs using highly controversial methods. Let's tell Spraker and the Board of Game that they went way too far. We don't need and don't want a war on predators. That brand of wildlife management failed throughout the world many years ago, and we don't need to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Vic Van Ballenberghe


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