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State approves sale of bear hides
Anchorage Daily News


February 01, 2006

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - For the first time in the state's history, Alaskans can legally sell bear hides.

The Board of Game agreed to the change this week to increase moose populations in five areas of the state where aerial wolf hunting is allowed.

The decision allows the sale of brown bear hides, which may be worth several thousand dollars, only if they're harvested from a 2,700-square-mile section of northeastern Alaska.



Black bear hides can also be sold if they're harvested from five predator control areas, which comprise 6 percent of the state.

"It's a big change," said Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation. "It's assumed this will provide some motivation for people to go out and take more bears."

The move comes shortly after a state Superior Court judge invalidated the state's aerial wolf hunting program. The judge said in part that the state needed to do a better job of showing that it has tried other alternatives to boost moose numbers. The Board of Game reinstated the program by tweaking its rules at an emergency meeting.

Game Board chairman Mike Fleagle said the board has loosened restrictions on bear hunting in the predator control areas, such as increasing the length of the season and removing the $25 fee for residents.

But enough moose predators haven't been killed in some areas, some board members said.

"This is to get the bear off the moose," said Cliff Judkins of Wasilla.

Unit 20E, the only area where brown bear baiting is allowed, is especially problematic, said Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley. The Taylor Highway is closed in the winter, and only a small number of people live in nearby villages. Nine brown bears were killed in the area last year.

Moose numbers in the unit also are only half of what they should be, Bartley said.

Brown bears are a big part of the problem. Between 1981 and 1988, they killed 52 percent of the newborn calves in the area, he said.

Some board members, like Fleagle and Judkins, said they would support a statewide plan for the sale of black bear hides. But others, such as Ted Spraker, Ron Sommerville and Ben Grussendorf, sought a limited approach that could be reviewed at the next statewide board meeting in two years.

The bear hides must be sold with claws attached to prevent hunters from harvesting the claws and leaving the hide. Skulls can also be sold. Hides must be reported to the Department of Fish and Game so vital information can be tracked. The changes could be in effect by the spring bear-hunting season.

State wildlife biologist Karen Blejwas, who conducted a recent survey of western states, said black bear hides are legally sold in Montana, Utah and Idaho.


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