By Bill Sherwonit December 13, 2013 in Alaska Dispatch
This year’s unusually high kill of Kenai Peninsula brown bears has gotten a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so. The peninsula’s population of brown bears (the coastal cousins of grizzlies) simply can’t sustain an annual human kill of 70 or more bears for long. That’s not my opinion, but the shared assessment of many bear biologists and wildlife managers. The bigger question isn’t whether the 2013 kill is too high, but how long it can be allowed before the Kenai’s brown bear population will be irreparably harmed.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge staff are among those convinced that even one year of 70 bear kills is too many, especially when two dozen of the dead bears were adult females, critical to a population’s health and stability. So in late October refuge manager Andy Loranger announced an emergency closure of its brown bear sport hunt. “This level of mortality is not scientifically sustainable,” Loranger explained, and if allowed it will inevitably “create a conservation concern for this population.”