ANCHORAGE, Alaska —
Some hunters are urging the Alaska Board of Game to use caution while considering whether to approve black bear snaring in the state. Critics call it cruel and barbaric, but the state says it's necessary to protect other wildlife populations.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says parts of Alaska are overrun with black bears, and they're killing off moose and caribou. But during Saturday's Board of Game meeting in Anchorage, people voiced concerns about the state's plans.
Fish and Game has put a proposal before the board to allow year-round black bear snaring for the first time in Alaska. Over the past decade 18 different proposals have been discussed; many, like the current one, are similar to trapping methods used in Maine and Canada.
“Alaska is a lot different than a lot of other states -- we have intact popuatiions of large predators along with prey species, and in such we have a lot of management challenges to deal with,” said Fish and Game regional program manager Kathie Harms.
The state's snaring proposal has already caught a lot of attention.
“We are fearful of the backlash affecting ongoing predator management or wildlife conservation measures that are working in Alaska right now,” said Robert Fithian, executive director of the Alaska Professional Hunters Association. “But also, again, we believe in the process, and if the board does due dilligence and makes those decisions out of public process and looking at the information, we'll support that”
While many hunters and trappers support black bear snaring, they say there needs to be changes to the current proposal. Some suggestions include setting a limit on the number of snares per hunter, and requiring hunters to stay in the field with the snares.
But the proposal has also drawn a large number of critics.
“Interior black bears are a very significant food source; for Alaskans they are very good to eat, and the board is trying to tell Alaskans that one animal is more delicious than another animal,” said Wade Willis with Science Now!
Critics also voiced concerns about public safety, saying the snares could pose a threat to hikers during the summer.
“I think in Alaska, there are very few subjects that are held more nearly or dearly to the heart that wildlife, and every time something new to Alaskans is being considered, it raises interest and a lot of people want to be involved,” Harms said.
Despite the differing opinions on what's right when it comes to black bear snaring, the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the seven members who make up the Board of Game.
Board Chair Cliff Judkins says members probably won't make a decision on the proposal for some time. He says he expects the board will want to spend several weeks gathering public comment.
Contact Jackie Bartz at email@example.com
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