Game board rejects, bear, wolf hunts in Chugach park

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Board of Game has turned down proposals to allow hunting of brown bears and wolves in Chugach State Park.

Game board members said more people like to watch wildlife than hunt in the park, which is in Anchorage's back yard.

The board also voted down three other proposals Wednesday to expand sheep hunting. Members said the hunts were too controversial.

''Anchorage people love their animals,'' said Ben Grussendorf of Sitka.

''We've heard again and again that Anchorage residents like large animals with big teeth. A lot of people don't, but they do,'' Board member Ted Spraker of Soldotna said.

Grussendorf and other members said they thought it important not to set up new hunts in Chugach park while state biologists are trying to move forward with a board-approved wolf- and bear-control plan in the McGrath area.

If brown bear hunting had been allowed in the park, state biologists said, the allowed harvest likely would have been fewer than three bears annually of an estimated 55-65.

The proposal to allow wolf hunting and trapping set no harvest limits. About 27 wolves roam the park, said Fish and Game Department biologist Rick Sinnott. Unlimited wolf hunting in the park could eliminate wolf packs or even all wolves in the park, Sinnott told the board.

The board regularly gets requests from the public to expand hunting in the park, though few have gone as far as the proposals this year. They would have permitted wolf and bear hunting in upper Ship Creek, Indian, Bird, Peters Creek, and the east fork of Eklutna. The sheep hunting proposals would have set up additional bowhunting areas and seasons.

The board asked state biologists to work with the park's advisory board to discuss the possibility of a limited bowhunt for sheep in an area near Eagle River.

Some black bear, moose, Dall sheep and bird hunting is allowed in the park. Brown bear and wolf hunting is not.

Chugach State Park Superintendent Jerry Lewanski said he welcomes debate about hunting in the park but thinks the board made the right decision in this case.

''There is a tremendous amount of mystique about wolves and bears,'' he said. ''People cherish the times they see them.''

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