FAIRBANKS (AP) Hunters would be barred from baiting black bears on federal land under legislation introduced by a senior Republican congressman.
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., introduced the legislation at the request of the Humane Society of the United States. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who has pushed a ban in the past.
In recent years, about two-thirds of the black bears killed by hunters in the Fairbanks area were taken over bait stations, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The department doesn't have statistics on how many were killed on federal land rather than state, borough or private property.
Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society's spokesman in Washington, D.C., said bear baiting is unsportsmanlike and inconsistent with longstanding federal land policy.
All the federal land managers publish materials saying 'Don't feed bears,' that feeding bears is dangerous for people and it's dangerous for bears. They say 'A fed bear is a dead bear,''' Pacelle said. How can an agency that makes these emphatic statements justify a policy of allowing trophy hunters to set out hundreds or thousands of dump sites on public lands?''
Hunting groups have banded together to defend baiting against the expected attack in Congress. They say baiting is not analogous to feeding wild animals and that groups such as the Humane Society are trying to create and exploit a mistaken image to chip at hunting rights in general.
This is just another tactic or another avenue,'' Tony Celebrezze, field service director of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance in Columbus, Ohio, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., will soon introduce a Senate version, a spokesman confirmed last week.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said the bear-baiting bill is not going anywhere'' in Congress.
Asked for his opinion of the proposal, he offered an expletive. They've tried that before,'' Young added before rushing off to a House floor vote.
In the summer of 2001, Moran proposed to add a bear-baiting ban to the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Interior. The amendment failed in committee, 35-27, according to Dan Drummond, Moran's spokesman.
Gallegly has supported certain animal welfare bills in the past, according to his spokesman, Tom Pfeifer. He won legislation outlawing the snuffing'' of small animals for video entertainment, Pfeifer said. Gallegly is also a co-sponsor of a proposal to ban the sale of horse meat for human consumption.
Across Alaska, the prevalence of baiting varies by region, but it is the dominant method of hunting black bear in the Fairbanks area. In 2000, Fish and Game sealed 2,698 black bear hides statewide. Eighteen percent had been shot over bait stations, according to Steve Schwartz, with the department in Anchorage.
However, 215 of those baited bears nearly half the total came from portions of hunting unit 20 near Fairbanks. In recent years, between 64 percent and 79 percent of the black bears shot around Fairbanks have come from bait stations, said Doreen Parker McNeill, assistant management coordinator with the Division of Wildlife Conservation in Fairbanks.
Alaska is one of nine states that allow bear baiting, out of 27 where bear hunting in general is permitted. Voters in several other states have banned baiting by initiative in recent years, and Alaska actually outlawed the practice between 1976 and 1982, Pacelle said.
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