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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Despite the Close of Private Aerial Hunting Season in Alaska, Troubling "Firsts" Allow Continued Killing Through Other Methods

Wade Willis / Defenders of Wildlife / May 6, 2009

Anchorage, Alaska - For the first time in Alaska's history as a state, brown and black bears can be snared, poison gas can be used to kill wolf pups in their dens, and helicopters can be used by private hunters to support the killing of wolves and bears, all thanks to the Alaska Board of Game's ever-escalating program to kill predators in key parts of the state.  And also for the first time, predator killing will continue past the traditional end of the April aerial gunning season, going well into the spring and summer seasons when tourists and residents are out enjoying Alaska's wildlife and wild places.

Bear snaring has never before been allowed, but is now permitted near Anchorage in Unit 16, an area heavily used by residents and tourists. Bear baiting season traditionally ended June 15, but now has been extended all summer long in Unit 16. Also along recreational trails and fishing streams in the Matsu Valley and Kenai Peninsula, where bait stations have traditionally been concentrated around trail heads and boat launch areas, the baiting season has been extended to June 30, despite objections by the ADF&G: "By mid June, fishing and other outdoor activities greatly increase. If bait stations were kept open until June 30, bears would still be coming in during peak fishing periods, especially over the 4th of July weekend."[i]

Just a short distance from Anchorage, the salmon fishing destinations of the Chuitna River and Lake Creek, both very popular rivers for residents and tourists, now have the potential to see snaring and baiting of black bears all summer long. Last year the season ended June 30 and did not allow the snaring of bears at all.

Additionally, citizens will now be allowed to use helicopters to access hunting grounds where bears can be shot or snared and their body parts legally sold. The board went ahead with this proposal despite strong opposition from the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. These newly approved methods will be implemented a short distance from Anchorage in the Skwentna and Beluga region of Unit 16.

"This truly has been a season of sad firsts for Alaska wildlife, with the Board of Game approving increasingly extreme measures that not only defy the natural order of our ecosystems, but also offend human sensibilities and jeopardize the safety of people enjoying the great outdoors this summer. Their decisions are bad news for people, wildlife and the ecosystems we all rely on," commented Defenders of Wildlife Alaska representative, Wade Willis. "Snaring bears and the use of bait stations through the summer months is extremely risky for people enjoying the outdoors this time of year.

"Hikers and campers should contact ADF&G to inquire about the location of snaring camps and bait stations before traveling into the wilderness for camping, fishing, hiking or berry picking," said Willis.

With the help of Governor Palin appointee Teresa Sager-Albaugh at its spring meeting, the Board of Game also approved new predator control methods for use by Alaska Department of Fish Game and its agents by authorizing the unprecedented use of carbon monoxide gas and snares to kill wolves and their pups in their dens. ADF&G personnel are expected to take advantage of their increased powers and create a year-round predator control program for the first time with a goal of targeting the remaining wolf packs that have been able to survive the citizen gunner teams during the winter.

"With no voice for moderation on the Board of Game, Alaska wildlife is headed towards trouble," continued Willis. "Members of the Board of Game, all of whom have been appointed or re-appointed by Governor Palin, have a duty to ensure that all wildlife is managed in a sustainable way. These are public assets that are being run into the ground. Alaskans need to hold the Board of Game and Governor Palin accountable for these reckless decisions that harm many of our state's most important wildlife species."

Contact: Wade Willis (907) 223-0218

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