Alaska Looks To Legalize Bear Trapping

AK Department Of Fish & Game, Bear Hunting Magazine

A decision on whether the public should be allowed to trap bears in Alaska has been deferred until spring 2012. The decision to reschedule came after concerns were raised that the public and citizen groups that advise the board were being shut out of the debate. The public will now have a chance to comment and submit proposals.

Alaska wildlife officials state that they need help because of a growing number of black bears that are roaming Alaska, taking down too many caribou and moose and leaving too few for humans to eat.

Because of this, Alaska is poised for the first time to legalize the trapping of black bears. Officials are proposing to legalize trapping in six large, mostly interior areas.

The Alaska Board of Game, which sets hunting regulations, met last week to begin debate and will likely delay a decision until next month to allow for public comment. If approved, it would be the first time since Alaska became a state in 1959 that bears could be legally trapped by anyone with a license. Maine is the only other state that allows bear trapping.

Alaska Fish and Game estimates that there are about 100,000 black bears in Alaska. It has not said how many should be taken by this new method, but official did state that the snaring will help trim a growing force of the bears that are feasting on moose and caribou calves.

Residents in the remote sections of the state can live hundreds of miles from the nearest grocery store, and end up having too few caribou and moose to harvest for food on their tables and meat for their freezers.

The method being proposed is a bucket snare — usually a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a cable and locking device designed to catch a bear by the foot. The buckets would be mounted at least 36 inches off the ground and be anchored to a tree. Trappers would be required to check the buckets at least every couple of days to see if a bear was snared and kill it.

Critics call the plan cruel: Bears are lured with buckets of raw meat and their paws are snared when they reach inside. Under the proposed regulations, any black bear, including sows and cubs, could be legally trapped. And they could trap other types of animals, including young grizzlies and wolverine.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game argues back that the bucket snares do not catch nontarget species, except for the occasional smaller grizzly bear. They believe that the snares "have the potential to provide the public with an efficient and selective method of catching black bears, especially around villages and in areas where moose are important for food.' For the past two years, the state has experimented with black bear trapping as part of its aerial predator control program and removed hundreds of bears from an area west of Anchorage and across an inlet.

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