Board of Game will examine predator control in Southcentral

From Alaska Dispatch By Jerzy Shedlock, March 10th, 2013

 

Fish and Game supports one proposal affecting moose hunts in Game Management Units 7 and 15 on the Kenai Peninsula.Courtesy Alan Wilson

The Alaska Board of Game begins meeting in Kenai on Friday to discuss hunting and trapping regulations for the state’s Southcentral region. Issues the board will address include hunting seasons and bag limits, meat salvage requirements, grizzly bear management and predator control for the Kenai Peninsula.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, local advisory committees and the public have submitted more than 50 proposals concerning regulations in the Anchorage, Cordova, Kodiak and the Kenai Peninsula areas. Also under consideration is predator control for a portion of Southeast Alaska.

Fish and Game supports one proposal affecting moose hunts in Game Management Units 7 and 15 on the Kenai Peninsula. Changes to brown/grizzly bear management will be under consideration as well, said the agency’s Southcentral spokesman Ken Marsh.

“There are a number of moose- and bear-related proposals,” Marsh said. “There’s no big concern. They’re just changes … Moose are a very important resource for the state’s hunters. The individual proposals, I would say they’re from people wanting more opportunities to put meat in their freezers.”

Beginning Friday, the board will hear state and federal presentations about brown bear and moose research on the Kenai Peninsula. Then the board will conduct a work session prior to public testimony concerning the management of those animals.

Many of the proposals for GMU 15 on the Kenai focus on moose. A declining moose population has spurred many calls to do something to reverse the trend. The Kenai and Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee proposed that current moose regulations should stay in place until 2014. Those regulations limit harvest for the general hunting season to bulls with an antler spread of 50 inches or more, or at least four brow tines on one side. The restriction to four brow tines, which went into effect during the fall 2011 season, was meant to reduce the harvest of bulls and thus increase the bull-to-cow ratio in the area.

Biologists believed more bulls were needed to breed the available cows. And while post-hunt bull numbers increased, a harsh winter subsequently caused a large number of moose deaths, according to the advisory committee. Bulls, who get preoccupied with breeding in the fall and don’t eat well, are more susceptible to the ravages of winter than cows.

Fish and Game has proposed modifying the moose hunts in the two game management units in question to allow hunters to again harvest moose with antlers of 50 inches or more, or with three-brow-tines on one side as in past years. Moose harvests on the Peninsula went from 400 to 600 annually between 2000 and 2010 with a three-brown-tine standard, then dropped dramatically to 30 in fall 2011, according to Fish and Game.

With heavy bear and wolf predation taking a toll on moose, Fish and Game wrote in its proposal, it is unlikely harvest numbers will increase rapidly. The regulatory change is predicted to allow 30 to 40 more moose to be harvested. The proposal will loosen the restrictions on the hunt, Marsh said.

“The idea is to liberalize the regulations, so people have more opportunities to harvest moose,” he said.

In one of the lengthier proposals, the Hope Village Council has asked the board to reinstitute a closure of Palmer and Lower Resurrection creeks to moose hunting. The areas had been closed for more than 30 years, but the board reopened them in 2011. The changed caused multiple user conflicts, private property conflicts and displacement of Hope residents during the hunting season, the council wrote.

“A ‘road hunt’ resulted on Palmer Creek Road and Resurrection Creek Road with four illegal bulls taken out of six bulls harvested in both areas,” the council wrote. “The moose hunt created public-safety issues and conflicted with the uses by Hope residents and others to such an extent that many longtime users felt displaced.”

The Hope council isn’t the only organization seeking to halt a hunt.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance wants to prohibit bear snaring throughout Southcentral. There is a market incentive to snare black bears without regard to gender or the whether they are sows with cubs because of their valuable furs, the alliance argues. What the organization calls an “onslaught against bears in Alaska” has increased, the environmental group contends, and is now harming Southcentral tourism. According to the alliance, the 2008 revenue generated from hunting and trapping fees totaled $124 million while the revenue from Alaska tourism was more than $538 million.

No one, however, knows how much of that $538 million is tied to tourists viewing black bears. Black bears are not widely sought after by tourists. 

Brown bears are another story. They are sought both by tourists and hunters. Proposal 153 submitted by Brian Blossom calls for opening an additional brown bear hunt in GMUs 15A and C. Right now, the Kenai Peninsula is limited to one fall hunt, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 1. The proposal would add a spring hunt, from April 1 to May 31. Marsh said Fish and Game supports the proposal.

“We’d like to add those dates. The bear population (on the Peninsula) is stable to increasing. This would give hunters better opportunities to harvest brown bears,” he said.

The public is invited to give testimony on these proposals and others starting on March 16. The meeting is scheduled to last through March 19.