Category Archives: Trapping

ALERT- Restrict Trapping – Comments Needed to the BOG!

email-header-mamafoxPlease Tell the Board of Game to Vote YES to require frequent trap-checks and ban trapping near cities and recreational areas, and to vote NO to remove trap ID requirements.  

Dear Wildlife Supporter,

The Alaska Board of Game (BOG) will meet in Fairbanks beginning March 18 to consider dozens of proposals to change statewide wildlife management regulations.

As usual, many of the proposals, if approved, would be detrimental to non-consumptive uses of wildlife. We encourage everyone to read (at least part of) the BOG Proposal Book at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=gameboard.proposalbook and comment on as many proposals as you choose.

In this Alert, AWA is soliciting comments on three proposals regarding trapping. (In a separate Alert we will be asking for comments on a proposal to limit wolf hunting near Denali National Park.)

Comments may be submitted to the Board of Game via email. Click on the Submit Comment box at www.boardofgame.adfg.alaska.gov.

Comments must be received no later than Friday, March 4 at 4:30 pm. (AK time)

Comments should specifically state “support” or “oppose” and the proposal number(s) on which you are commenting. The talking points below are suggestions – please feel free to use the information to compose your own message.

Proposal 78 – Oppose.   BACKGROUND: This proposal asks the BOG to remove the few existing trap-ID requirements, and make a “statement of legislative intent” opposing any future law requiring trap IDs.

Trap IDs consist of either small metal tags attached to traps or signs posted near trap sites bearing the owner’s identification information. Such IDs are required only in Southeast (Game Management Units 1-5) and within one-quarter mile of publicly maintained roads in GMUs 20E and 12 (the Tok Cutoff and Taylor Highway, and about 30 miles of the Alaska Highway).

Proposed by the Alaska Trappers Association (ATA), this is an attempt to let trappers remain anonymous while taking a resource from public or private property for their benefit. ATA clearly wishes to pre-empt any additional trap-ID requirements which would effectively end any accountability for where they place their traps or any incidental catch of wildlife, pets or people.

Talking points:

* A small metal tag – or a single sign for a trapping site – hardy constitutes a “cumbersome” burden on trappers. It is certainly no more bothersome than complying with the requirement for trappers to seal furs, or for fishermen to place ID on their crab pots.

* The existing trap-ID regulations have been in place for more than 10 years. They are not a new or little-known requirement.

* Conflicts between trappers and recreationalists are not going to end; reports are in fact increasing. Of course trap IDs will make trappers more conscious of where they set traps. If they are already following regulations – and the ATA’s own directive to avoid heavily used recreation areas – this should not be an issue.
* Trappers who choose to follow the regulations and the ATA directive to avoid heavily used areas should in fact support trap-ID. It would aid law enforcement in weeding out the scofflaws who intentionally foster conflicts – and in the process obtain advantage over other trappers.

*         *         *

Proposals 79 and 80 (below) were submitted by AWA members Michelle Anderson and Patricia O’Brien.

Proposal 79 – Support.   BACKGROUND: This proposal would mandate that traps be checked at intervals of no more than 24 hours (with an exception allowed for delays in severe weather). Currently there is no required schedule to check traps in Alaska, except for a small area in Southeast where there is a 72-hour trap-check rule.

Absent a required trap-check, trapped animals can suffer for very long periods before dying of starvation, dehydration, predation or injuries before the trapper eventually returns to finish the kill. A required short trap-check interval would also help reduce the incidental killing of non-target species (for example moose), which could be released.

The trappers’ code of ethics (written by Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and the Alaska Trappers Association) addresses the issue in just three words: “check traps regularly.”

Talking points:

* Animals caught in traps are not always killed instantly. To allow them to languish for an indefinite period of time subjects them to inhumane suffering as a result of injuries, starvation, dehydration or predation by other animals.

* The mere advice to “check traps regularly” is hardly a sufficient instruction for trappers. “Regularly” can be interpreted as daily, weekly, monthly, or “as time permits” – entirely at the trapper’s discretion.

* A short trap-check interval benefits fur trappers by ensuring that the animals’ pelts will be in good condition rather than wasted as unusable. It would also lessen the stigma attached to trapping for killing non-target species and allowing excessive suffering.

Proposal 80 – Support. BACKGROUND: This proposal would, within cities of 1,000 or more population, prohibit trapping within one-quarter mile of a publicly maintained road, within 200 feet of a publicly maintained trail, and within one mile of a home, school or recreational facility (such as a boat launch or campground).

Trapping activities are clearly inappropriate in the above-mentioned areas. Reports of pets injured or killed in traps have been increasing, and reports of traps set on or within a few feet of trails are common. The traps may be baited, increasing the likelihood a pet will venture off a trail to investigate. Signs are not required to mark areas where traps are set, leaving recreationalists – hikers, bikers, ski-jorers, mushers – with no warning whatsoever that dangerous traps are nearby.

Talking points:

* A section of the state’s published trapping regulations advises trappers to avoid high recreational-use areas and locations where a pet might be caught. Numerous reports of traps set on or adjacent to trails clearly indicate that these common-sense suggestions are not being followed. It is time for the BOG to make these “suggestions” into “regulations” that can be enforced.

* Hikers, mushers and other trail users should not have to worry that their dog(s) might step into a trap set just a few feet off of a heavily used trail. Public trails are just that – public – and not the exclusive domain of trappers.

* Trapping adjacent to trails and public facilities is a danger to people as well as pets. Large traps are almost impossible to release without tools and expertise, and can inflict fatal injuries to a pet instantly. A person stepping on such a trap would be unable to free themselves and likely would suffer serious injuries.

* Conflicts between private property owners, recreationalists, etc., and trappers are growing, and resentment between the groups will escalate unless rules to restrict – not eliminate – trapping are enacted. Specific regulations would benefit both user groups.

*         *         *

Again, there are many important proposals affecting Alaska’s wildlife in the proposal book. Please take a few minutes to review and submit comments on others.

PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO THE BOG ON BEHALF OF ALASKA’S WILDLIFE. YOUR VOICE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Thank you for supporting AWA and for your ongoing commitment to protecting Alaska’s wildlife.

ALERT-Restrict Denali-Area Wolf Hunting – Comments Needed to the BOG!

Please Tell the Board of Game to Vote YES to approve a shortened hunting season adjacent to Denali National Park to help protect wolves.

Dear Wildlife Supporter,

The Alaska Board of Game (BOG) will meet in Fairbanks beginning March 18 to consider dozens of proposals to change statewide wildlife management regulations. We believe that one of the most important to our members will be Proposal #141, which would shorten the wolf hunting season on state land adjacent to the park boundary.

BACKGROUND: The proposal would shorten the wolf hunting season in a portion of the Stampede Corridor by six weeks in the spring to avoid overlap with the bear baiting season. Last spring a male wolf and a pregnant female wolf from the East Fork pack were legally shot near a bear baiting station in that area. The East Fork wolves, one of the packs most easily seen by park visitors, did not den or produce pups last year, according to National Park Service (NPS) monitoring.

As our members are well aware, AWA and other groups have been working long and hard to get the BOG to stop the killing of wolves when they cross from the park onto state land. The park wolf population remains at a record-low count of about 50 wolves, and mortality due to hunting on state land is recognized as a significant contributing – and preventable – cause.

Shown above is the area known as the Wolf Townships or Stampede Corridor_ which is excluded from Denali National Park _green_ and managed by the state. Proposal _141 would restrict wolf hunting in the yellow area_ the expanded area proposed by AWA and DCC is shown in orange_ and the boundary of prior buffer zone requests is drawn in red.

Shown above is the area known as the Wolf Townships or Stampede Corridor_ which is excluded from Denali National Park _green_ and managed by the state. Proposal _141 would restrict wolf hunting in the yellow area_ the expanded area proposed by AWA and DCC is shown in orange_ and the boundary of prior buffer zone requests is drawn in red.

This proposal by the NPS was presented to the BOG in January as an Agenda Change Request and was approved for inclusion on its March agenda. Our members will recall that at the same time AWA, in partnership with the Denali Citizens Council (DCC), presented an ACR to have a wolf buffer proposal considered during the March meeting. The BOG denied our request by a vote of 5-1. AWA and DCC are again cooperating to support #141 (with important modifications, as discussed below).

Although we are enthusiastically supporting # 141, we want to be clear to our members – and especially to the Board – that we do not consider this a substitute for a no-wolf-hunting-and-trapping buffer zone adjacent to the park. We have been advocating for such a buffer for years – as the wolf population and visitor viewing success have steadily declined – and we will continue to do so. Proposals for such a buffer can be presented without prior approval at the BOG’s March 2017 meeting.

Click here http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=gameboard.proposalbook and scroll down to Proposal 141 to read the full NPS proposal.

Comments may be submitted to the Board of Game via email. Click on the Submit Comment box at www.boardofgame.adfg.alaska.gov.

Comments must be received by Friday, March 4 at 4:30 pm. (AKST)

THE PROPOSAL: #141 would end the wolf hunting season in the western portion of Stampede Corridor on April 15 (instead of May 31) to coincide with the opening of the bear baiting season. This would prevent the killing of wolves attracted to the baiting stations. The BOG extended the bear baiting season several years ago, but 2015 was the first year in which wolf kills were documented as result of bear baiting activities. After the two wolves were killed near a bait station last year, a state-issued Emergency Closure ended the wolf hunting season two weeks early, on May 15.

AWA and DCC strongly urge the BOG to expand the scope of Proposal #141 to include the following modifications:

  1. Apply the shortened hunting season to the remainder of the 2016 hunting season. If approved in March, by law the change would not take effect until the 2016-17 regulatory year, beginning July 1. This would leave the wolves still vulnerable to killing at bait stations this spring. As evidenced in 2015, the loss of even a single breeding female can exacerbate the population decline among park wolves. Given the liberal harvest limits it is possible that more than one breeder could be attracted to and killed near a bait station.
  1. Include the entire Stampede Corridor (east to the Parks Highway) in the new regulation. Wolves migrate through the Corridor in pursuit of prey as far as and across the highway. The entire Corridor is open to bear baiting, and the last easternmost section would be a relatively small addition.
  1. Change the hunting season closure to an earlier date. NPS data shows that wolves in the park breed as early as the first week of March. Closing the hunting season on March 15 or April 1 would protect the breeding wolves and therefore hasten a rebound in the population.
  1. Shorten the wolf trapping season to coincide with the shorter hunting season as indicated in #3, to either March 15 or April 1. Currently trapping does not end until April 30, and wolves also can be shot at trap lines. There is no harvest limit on trapping. If the trapping season remains unchanged, the wolves – especially the breeders – will remain vulnerable to loss, the very result that this proposal is intended to mitigate.

TALKING POINTS:

Please begin your comments by stating:

Proposal 141 – Support with the addition of the four modifications as detailed in the comments submitted by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and the Denali Citizens Council.

The talking points below are suggestions – please use the information to compose your own message.

* The Denali wolves that den in the northeastern area of the park and cross the boundary onto state land are unique: they are the most easily viewed wolves in Alaska. They are an important financial, cultural and scientific resource and as such deserve special management considerations. More than 500,000 visitors come to Denali each year, spending more than $5 million in the local economy. High on their must-see lists is wildlife, especially wolves.

* Currently the park wolf population remains at a near-record low: visitors’ chances of seeing a wolf are a near-impossible 4 percent. A significant cause for the decline is hunting and trapping adjacent to the park. Proposal 141 would remove hunting and trapping pressure when the wolves are most vulnerable, during breeding season.

* Proposal 141 should be approved with the following modifications: immediate implementation in the 2015-16 regulatory year; expansion to include the entire Stampede Corridor area; closure of the hunting season earlier, on Mar 15 or April 1st; and closure of both the hunting and trapping seasons on April 15.

* Proposal 141, even if passed with all of the requested modifications, is not a substitute for a no hunting/trapping buffer zone adjacent to the park. It will not provide the same protection as a buffer and it is supported only as a partial, interim solution to offer a measure of protection to breeding wolves.

* Without these changes in regulations, it is entirely possible another breeding female will be killed this spring. The result – as the NPS documented in 2015 – will be continued low wolf population counts and dismal prospects for visitors who come to Denali with the hope of seeing a wolf.

* The Alaska Department of Fish & Game acknowledged that instances of wolves from the park being attracted to and killed at bear-baiting stations was an unforeseen consequence of a recent change in those regulations. Given the resulting impact on the area’s already-low wolf population, the BOG has the duty to revisit the issue and correct the problem.

*         *         *

GIVEN THE BOG’S ACCEPTANCE OF THIS PROPOSAL FOR ITS MARCH MEETING, WE ARE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC THAT IT WILL RECEIVE A FAIR HEARING.

ON BEHALF OF THE DENALI WOLVES, PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO THE BOG. WE MUST KEEP PRESSURE ON THE BOG TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE. YOUR VOICE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Thank you for supporting AWA and for your ongoing commitment to protecting Alaska’s wildlife.

PS: We will send another email regarding the details of the March meeting and the procedure for testifying in person, for those who will be in Fairbanks. We also will let you know the outcome of these and other proposals after the conclusion of the BOG meeting.  

BOG Rejects Emergency Petition for Denali Buffer Zone

Alaska Board of Game Unanimously Rejects Petition Seeking Emergency Protection for Denali National Park Wolves

The Alaska Board of Game voted unanimously Friday to reject an emergency petition seeking closure of state lands to the hunting and trapping of wolves along the eastern boundary of Denali National Park.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance (AWA) in partnership with the Denali Citizens Council, the National Parks Conservation Association and individuals filed the emergency petition in response to a precipitous decline in the wolf population in the eastern section of the park, and a corresponding drop in visitor sightings of wolves. The closure would have re-established a buffer that the Board of Game (Board) eliminated in 2010.

Denali National Park proposed buffer zone map.

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015…..
Click to enlarge.

The seven Board members unanimously and decisively agreed that the combined low wolf population and viewing opportunities as outlined in the petition did not meet the threshold of an “emergency” as defined in state regulations. Therefore, because petition did not achieve the level of emergency status, the issue of the buffer proposal itself did not come to a vote.

After 30-plus minutes of discussion, members concurred that the issues cited in the petition did not constitute an “unforeseen, unexpected event that…threatens a fish or game resource” which is the criteria for considering emergency action. They agreed that “resource” refers to biological resource, not a financial resource, such as money that would be lost if fewer wolves resulted in fewer visitors to Alaska.

Bruce Dale, director of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Division of Wildlife Conservation, said that the term “emergency” was to be interpreted very narrowly, so that very few issues would rise to that level. He added that the Board knew in 2010 that eliminating the buffer would increase the number of wolves killed by hunting and trapping, hence the result was neither unforeseen nor unexpected.

The emergency closure was sought to halt a precipitous and well-documented decline in the Denali wolf population, particularly in the eastern area of the park. Those wolves are the most frequently and easily viewed by park visitors; however when the wolves follow prey across the park boundary onto state land the wolves are easily targeted by hunters and trappers.

In 2007, the National Park Service counted 143 wolves in the 6-million-acre park. In 2014, NPS counted just 50 wolves, the lowest population in the park’s historical record, and a decline of nearly two-thirds in just seven years.

Wolf-viewing success for the nearly 500,000 annual visitors to the park dropped accordingly. In 2010 (when the buffer ended), 44 percent of visitors saw wolves. In 2013, just 4 percent saw wolves.

In its discussion the Board cited other possible reasons for the decline in wolves other than hunting and trapping, including factors such as diminished prey populations and natural variances in wolf numbers.

Board members Robert Mumford said if he had been on the Board in 2010 he would have voted to maintain the existing buffer, but he did not support the emergency petition.

“It’s regrettable that the buffer zone went away, but it shouldn’t come back in the form of an emergency regulation,” Mumford said. “I wish it had never gone away in the first place.”

Board Vice Chairman Nate Turner echoed that sentiment, saying that if he had been on the Board five years ago he too would have voted to keep the buffer.

The Board also suggested alternatives to a buffer, such as a state-federal land swap which would add the land used by the wolves to the park itself. Such an exchange was proposed last year and is still a viable alternative, but neither the state nor the federal government has actively pursued it.

Several Board members mentioned the “heartfelt” and “passionate” written comments they received in support of the petition. Board Chairman Ted Spraker said that more than 400 pages of written comments were received. Per the state policy on emergency petitions, no public testimony was allowed at the meeting.

“I would really like to commend all those who took the time to put this together,” Spraker said. “There were a lot of good, respectful comments.”

Please help: your signatures are needed on this petition to protect the Denali National Park wolves!

The Denali Citizens Council (DCC) has set up this online petition in support of AWA’s Emergency Petition asking the Alaska Board of Game to create a no hunting/trapping buffer area to protect wolves just outside of the park’s eastern boundary. The DCC, a co-signer on AWA’s Petition to the Board, is trying to collect as many signatures as possible to forward to the Board before its March 13 meeting.

Click here to read the text of AWA’s Emergency Petition.

Click here to sign the DCC’s petition.

Thank you!

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012

 

2/23/15: AWA and others submit emergency petition for Denali Buffer Zone

On February 23rd, The Alaska Wildlife Alliance, along with Denali Citizens Council, National Parks Conservation, and seven individual citizens, submitted an emergency petition to the Alaska Board of Game. The petition, which can be downloaded below, requests that the BOG close certain lands along the eastern Boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve to the taking of wolves.

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012. View a larger image here.

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