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Committee backs intensive management proposals

Posted: October 29, 2011 - 8:06pm

About 50 people attended the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting last week to discuss the Board of Game’s proposed intensive management of wolf populations.

“The emphasis (Wednesday) night was proposals 35 and 36,” said Advisory Committee acting chair Bill Tappan.

The advisory committee voted unanimously to support both proposals. However, Tappan pointed out the public had concerns about other predators as well, not just the wolf population targeted by the proposals.

“The public spent an hour and a half not talking about wolves,” Tappan said, “but about brown bears on the Peninsula — there’s a notion on the part of some that there are too many brown bears on the Peninsula.”

Taking the public’s comments into consideration, the committee added side notes to its position on the proposals.

“We feel Fish and Game should look at the necessity of predation on moose calves and cows primarily as a result of bear kills,” Tappan said.

Tappan said the discussion Wednesday sounded like a military strategy.

“It sounded like they were talking about a war plan in Iraq,” he said. “Having a pilot and a gunner shooting out the side door of the plane.

“It’s worked in other areas.”

The Board of Game released the proposed intensive management plans earlier this month that include aerial wolf control for game Unit 15A and 15C, which make up the majority of the Kenai Peninsula.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game already approved predator control programs for both game Units (proposal 173 voted on in March of 2011). Proposals 35 and 36 are the operational plans the Board of Game will present to Fish and Game to be voted on next month.

Board of Game vice chairman Ted Spraker said the proposals stem from a law passed in 1994 called the Intensive Management Law.

“The law said certain species of animals in Alaska, the highest use of them is for human food — for humans to eat,” Spraker said. “They identified deer, caribou and moose.”

Spraker said the Legislature went a step further with the law by requiring the board to identify areas where the law could work. There was one stipulation for moose, Spraker said — if the area was capable of producing 100 moose for harvest per year, that would be an area subject to intensive management.

“Unit 15A and 15C have a long history of producing way over 100 moose,” Spraker said. “I recall one year in 15A when I worked with (Alaska Department of Fish and Game), we harvested almost 400 moose in 15A.”

Unit 15C, Spraker said, does not have quite the history of 15A, but there have been more than 300 moose harvested in the area.

Spraker said 15A has declined to the point to where it’s below the goals set for intensive management. “In 15A, the intensive management law says ‘You’ll maintain a population of 3,000-3,500 moose,’” Spraker said. “‘And the area will sustain an annual harvest of 180-350 moose.’”

Unit 15A has been below those levels each year during the past decade, except for one year, Spraker said. 

There is a variety of reasons for the declining numbers, he said. Spraker said it’s everything from cars, to brown bears, to wolves and hunters.

“It is rarely ever just one thing — unless it’s a weather-related event,” Spraker said.

The board will vote on the proposals during the Nov. 11 to 14 Arctic Region Board of Game meeting in Barrow. The two proposals, Proposal 35 — for Unit 15A, and Proposal 36 — for Unit 15C, could be approved, modified, or tabled at the meeting.

“All we are doing in Barrow is authorizing the finer details of the program,” Spraker said. “However, since it is being brought back before the board we can make any changes, including not authorizing anything, if the board changes its mind.”

Both plans would: 

n Authorize methods of taking wolves, including hunting and trapping;

n Authorize the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to issue public aerial shooting permits and land and shoot permits;

n Authorize the commissioner to allow agents of the state or department employees to do aerial, land and shoot, or ground shooting of wolves; and

n Allow aerial wolf control for five years from January 2012 to January 2017.

Although wolves are a threat to the moose population, in some areas it might not be the silver bullet. Spraker believes there are five packs of wolves in 15A, and the department would be able to eradicate two of those packs. The total number of wolves would be about 27, he said. The reason why 15A is tricky is because 80 percent of the area is managed on the Kenai Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s not going to make a huge difference in the numbers of wolves in 15A,” Spraker said. “We’re talking about 15 wolves that would be taken by aerial shooting, and the trappers would be able to take a dozen.

“In the scheme of things, it’s not going to reduce the population very much.”

In Unit 15C, Spraker said there are seven packs of wolves, and four or five of those packs would be eliminated if the proposals are passed.

Tappan summed up the advisory committee’s stance on the issue.

“It’s not that we don’t like wolves,” he said. “We like moose better — that’s the bottom line of it.” 

 


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