By Joel Gay
Anchorage Daily News
April 07, 2005
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game hopes to see as many as 81 brown bears killed to help boost the moose population for human consumption. It's part of a broader program that includes aerial shooting of more than 100 wolves this winter.
While the plan has widespread support from hunters, who say predator control is necessary to let moose stocks rebuild, wildlife-protection advocates say the program is unnecessary, irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
"They have no idea how many bears are out there and no idea what impact those bears are having on moose," said Karen Deatherage of Defenders of Wildlife. "There simply isn't any science to justify these programs."
After years in which lethal predator control in Alaska was put on hold because of public opposition, the practice has picked up speed since 2002. New legislation transfers responsibility for the killing to private individuals acting under Fish and Game's authority.
Wolf control resumed last winter in two areas of Alaska. This year, aerial and land-and-shoot efforts are occurring in five areas, targeting more than 500 wolves. To date, more than 250 have been killed.
But biologists have long known that brown and black bears can also be voracious predators, particularly of newborn moose calves. Studies around McGrath, Alaska, showed that bears killed 40 percent of calves over a three-year period.
Baiting black bears is particularly popular among bow hunters. Typically, the hunter sets out aromatic foodstuffs such as grease, dog food and pastries for several days in a row, and continues bringing bait after bears begin visiting the site. With the bears habituated to the food source, the hunter can wait in hiding to make the kill.