Just days after voters killed an initiative to ban bear baiting in Alaska, the Alaska Board of Game rejected a proposal to reintroduce bear baiting in the management zone that includes areas around Juneau, Gustavus, Hoonah and south of the Taku River.
The board, however, voted to accept a compromise between Juneau wildlife advocates and hunters that will allow harvest of three wolves per year on Douglas Island. Such trapping has been banned since 2002, when all seven wolves known to roam Douglas were killed.
Several board members weighed the possibility of amending the Juneau bear baiting proposal to allow baiting west of Lynn Canal and south of the Taku River at the board's meeting in Juneau on Thursday night.
But either version would have conflicted with recent revisions to state law. Discussion on the proposal was cut short Thursday night by an Alaska Department of Law attorney who informed the board of the legal conflict.
Attorney Kevin Saxby said the board's and local hunters' assumption that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game maintains a list of areas where bear baiting is not allowed is incorrect.
"We used to have a list. But that list is gone," Saxby said.
If the board had allowed bear baiting in Juneau, the city would be the only one in Alaska where bear baiting is "specified." And Juneau is the area where bear baiting is most contentious in the state, Saxby said.
The Department is allowed to permit bear baiting anywhere in the state. At this time, state biologists oppose bear baiting in Juneau because, among other reasons, it could cause discord between the department and Juneau residents, department officials said Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the board voted down a proposal to prohibit hunting within one-quarter mile of a home or road in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.
The board tabled until its March meeting any major revisions to the controversial moose hunt in Gustavus.
It rejected a proposal to create an archery-only hunt for moose in Gustavus but accepted a proposal for a longer archery-only goat hunt in a small game area along the Taku River.
The board continues to meet today and is expected to vote on regionwide, statewide and Sitka game management unit proposals, including a review of bear hunting closures on Admiralty Island.
* Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.