Hunters shoot two relocated bears

Posted: Monday, June 09, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) At least two hunters already have benefited from the state's predator control project aimed at protecting moose calves near McGrath.

Two of the 81 black bears that biologists caught and moved from the McGrath area have been killed by Interior hunters elsewhere.

Research coordinator Pat Valkenburg said both bears were both shot at bait stands, one near Livengood about 80 miles northeast of Fairbanks and another near the Rex Bridge on the Parks Highway about 100 miles south of Fairbanks.

Another McGrath bear was wounded at a bait stand on the Rex Trail and a fourth bear was seen diving into a commercial trash receptacle in Healy, Valkenburg said.

''We've had four observations of radio-collared or marked bears that have had encounters with people,'' he said.

The bear shot in Livengood had been dropped off about 25 miles away on top of Tolovana Dome northeast of Fairbanks, not far from Tolovana Hot Springs. The other three were dropped off at remote airstrips in the Alaska Range about 50 miles east of the Parks Highway.

Hunters were able to salvage the meat of the two dead bears because more than two weeks had passed since the animals had been drugged.

Biologists caught and moved 90 bears 81 black bears and nine grizzlies in three weeks to increase the number of moose for local hunters.

Bears were darted from helicopters or caught in traps and dropped off at remote airstrips southwest of Nenana, northeast of Minto, northwest of Tanana and south of Fairbanks.

Biologists put radio collars on 20 black bears and three grizzlies to track their movements. While some of the collared bears have backtracked toward McGrath, the closest one was still 70 miles from its capture point as of last weekend.

That bear was dropped off northwest of Tanana and had traveled 88 nautical miles, Valkenburg said. Another bear dropped off in that area had traveled 70 miles toward McGrath.

Biologists have wrapped up the bear-moving part of the experiment last weekend. The last two bears biologists moved were large grizzlies.

Biologists captured a 700-pound boar and a 350-pound sow and relocated them southwest of Fairbanks. The boar was the biggest of the 90 bears handled by biologists and could not fit in the helicopter being used by the Fish and Game Department. Biologists borrowed a bigger helicopter from the state Division of Forestry to move the animal.

A 500-pound grizzly in the spring is considered big by Interior standards.

''He was gigantic,'' Valkenburg said of the 700-pound boar. ''We needed a forklift to weigh the bear.''

The sow, meanwhile, was a proven moose calf killer, having killed three newborn calves this year. Biologists found her shortly after she had killed a set of newborn twins.

So far, six of the 55 moose calves that biologists are tracking with radio collars have died. Four have been killed by bears, one died after its mother died of birth complications and another died when it could not get up a steep creek bank.

Last year, 10 of 85 radio-collared calves had died as of June 2 and approximately 60 calves were killed in the first month.

''Statistically there isn't much difference between this year and last year at this point,'' Valkenburg said.

Wolves, which killed more than 30 percent of newborn calves during last year's study, have yet to kill a single radio-collared calf. That will likely change, Valkenburg said.

''Wolves have so many other things they can eat at this time of year,'' the biologist said. ''Wolves spend a lot of time hunting beaver at this time of year. We know from past studies that beaver is an important food source for wolves.''

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