Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Game management has been an ongoing problem throughout the country for many years and one that I’m sure will be an ongoing controversy for many years to come. Recently in California, a 70-year-old man was attacked in a state park by a mountain lion and severally mauled while his 65-year-old wife frantically fought the huge cat off her husband. California is one of those places where they made it illegal to hunt or trap mountain lions. Now common every day people are in danger because no game management policies are in place to protect those wanting to use our state and federal parks.

In Wisconsin, where I spent a good part of my life, the DNR calls game management of white tail deer selling as many hunting license for deer that they can get hunters to buy. They do nothing to feed or help starving deer in over populated areas and will we even arrest you if you do. They have nearly completely killed off the white tail deer in some areas due to unlimited over hunting.

Here in Alaska there has been an ongoing controversy on aerial wolf hunting. Perhaps by far the most successful way of controlling over populated wolves in certain areas, it is also perhaps one of our most widely discussed practices. I know that in certain areas of Alaska wolves and bears have greatly reduced moose and caribou numbers. In talking to a local trapper in the Beluga area the wolves there were greatly thinned out through the aerial wolf-hunting program. I personally have never eaten a wolf but really think I would prefer either moose or caribou.

Wisconsin reintroduced elk in the northern part several years ago and was very successful with that program. Then they turned around and reintroduced wolves to go with an abundance of coyotes that already roamed the state. Now they are having predator problems there just like those ranchers living around Yellowstone Park. For many years the ranchers had the cattle stealing wolf problem under control through a variety of programs only to have the wolves reintroduced there again also.

I now read in the papers that aerial wolf hunting here is again under attack and scheduled to go before the voters in 2008. Much of the support for this comes from the lower 48 who even a few years ago ran a campaign to boycott coming to Alaska if we the people of Alaska did not stop this management program. My answer to these people was a short simple one: I’m sure we will miss you as we walk to that uncrowded fishing hole.

Several years ago I was told by a forestry worker in the Skilak loop area that bears were eating 45 to 60% of our moose calves in that area every spring. But yet we Alaskans have ignored this problem by allowing our game management people to do nothing. That’s right folks, absolutely nothing to control this predator problem. No animals of any kind are allowed to be harvested because we the people of Alaska allow office dwelling people to name certain areas of our state to be called viewing areas. Likewise we are not allowed to take any animals of any species to feed our families either, not even a snowshoe hare unless we do it with a bow and arrow. Our most easily accessible areas like Skilak Loop are on the no hunting list and we often times must pay to fly into areas to hunt instead of going to local areas we could real easily drive into. In my opinion letting animals in certain areas die of old age while predators kill the young that should normally replace them is the worst form of game management or the real wanton waste.

Our obligation to our wildlife is to manage it and even the Bible tells us that. We are given dominion over the birds of the air, the animals on land and the fish of the sea. But yet we allow much of our wildlife here in Alaska to go unmanaged.

I know I am sure to ruffle a few feathers here in Alaska with this week’s story. Before you too become angry just ask yourself a few questions. How can we better manage the predator problem in Skilak Loop area? Wouldn’t it really make more sense to allow local hunters to thin out a few bears from this area as well as a drawing for a few big bulls each year? Isn’t that what management is all about? One of the greatest resources we have here in Alaska is our wildlife, but are we actually managing it by allowing those who are employed to manage it to do nothing?

I am a hunter; my friends and my family and I enjoy eating wild game regularly. I do not kill anything just to kill, and yes I also enjoy watching wildlife too. I find little enjoyment in the thought of baby moose calves being eaten alive by bears that have been following mom around waiting for her to give birth.

I am really disappointed in some of the answers I have gotten about this situation. That is natural for bears to eat meat, so is it for the members of our human race. This is nature. We were given a job to manage game not to over harvest or totally restrict it either. Two fish limit on Watson Lake. Don’t get me started on that one either! See you next week!

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