Wolf Song of Alaska News

It's Game Time: Alaska Board of Game Meets in Fairbanks

Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / February 25, 2010

Allowing hunters to shoot calf and cow moose.

Expanding or eliminating a no-trapping buffer zone that was established to protect wolves that travel outside Denali National Park and Preserve.

Using bait to hunt grizzly bears.

Letting hunters use radios and airplanes to hunt Delta bison.

Requiring trappers to check their traps every three days.

Those are just a handful of the issues the Alaska Board of Game will take up when it begins a 10-day meeting today at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks to consider more than 130 proposals regarding hunting and trapping regulations in the Interior.

“There’s something for everyone in this one,” Fairbanks board member Al Barrette said.

The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. with staff reports from the Department of Fish and Game and other agencies before public testimony on individual proposals begins sometime in the afternoon. Public testimony is expected to last through much, if not all, the weekend.

“My guess is we’ll get plenty of people that want to talk,” department spokeswoman Cathie Harms said.

The deadline to sign up to testify before the board is 4 p.m. Saturday.

One of the issues expected to provoke discussion is the Denali buffer zone, a 122 square-mile area of state land surrounding the northeast boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve in which wolf trapping is prohibited.

The buffer zone has been a controversial topic since it was put in place by the game board 10 years ago. Advocates of the buffer zone contend that it protects wolves that stray outside the park so tourists can see them in the summer and should be expanded. Critics say there is no biological reason for the buffer zone because the park’s wolf population is healthy.

There are 12 proposals pertaining to the buffer zone, seven to eliminate it and five to expand it. One of the latter is from the National Park Service.

“Certainly the buffer zone is going to bring out some testimony,” Harms said. “That’s always a popular topic.”

It’s popular enough that Priscilla Feral, president of the animal-rights group Friends of Animals, is flying to Fairbanks from Connecticut to testify in support of expanding the buffer zone. Feral said her presence is “a tip of the hat to Gordon Haber,” the independent biologist who studied Denali wolves for 40-plus years and was a strong advocate of a bigger buffer zone before he was killed in a plane crash in October while tracking wolves in Denali.

The subject of shooting cow and calf moose also is likely to create some heated debate, said Fairbanks-area biologist Don Young.

There are at least two proposals that would allow hunters to shoot calf moose in certain areas around Fairbanks, and the department also is proposing to continue large-scale cow moose hunts in three areas of Game Management Unit 20.

“Some people like them and some people don’t,” Young said of cow moose hunts.

As for calf hunts, Young said the department supports an amended proposal that would allow hunters to take calves in some areas but not cows accompanied by calves. Currently, hunters are prohibited from taking calves or cows accompanied by calves in most areas.

“We think it’s appropriate from a biological and intensive management standpoint,” Young said.

The Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee, however, has a different view.

“We’re still opposed to hunting calves except in a couple areas for safety reasons,” committee representative Mike Tinker said. “We still don’t want to harvest calves for freezer reasons.”

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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