State proposes bear-hunting restrictions in Southeast

Posted: Wednesday, September 06, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Department of Fish and Game wants to shorten some bear hunting seasons in Southeast Alaska, especially for nonresidents, but it would allow more hunting of elk, moose, beaver and wolves in selected areas if the Board of Game agrees.

The citizen panel that sets hunting and trapping rules is scheduled to meet Nov. 1-9 in Juneau. Any approved proposals would take effect July 1, 2001.

The department wants to shorten the spring brown bear season in Unit 1, the Southeast mainland, to align it with the shorter season in Unit 4, which includes Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof islands.

The 50 guided hunts on the mainland last year were about twice the usual number for the 1990s, according to state figures.

The state doesn't know how many bears are on the mainland, and biologists are concerned they could be overhunted.

The U.S. Forest Service recently announced a moratorium on new guides and capped guided hunters in units 1 and 4 at recent levels for 2001.

But the new moratorium might not offer enough safeguards for mainland bears, and guides might challenge the number of allotted clients, said Bruce Dinneford, the department's Southeast wildlife management coordinator.

Scott Newman, a hunting guide based in Petersburg, said guides have been asking for caps on guided hunters for a while.

''That will keep things in check,'' Newman said.

Fish and Game also wants to shorten the nonresident black bear season in Unit 3, the islands around Petersburg and Wrangell, by six weeks. Some guides have proposed harvest caps instead.

Biologists are concerned about the increased number of bears killed in recent years on Kuiu Island, 90 percent of which are taken by nonresidents.

''What makes us most uneasy is we have a total lack of population information,'' Dinneford said.

But Newman said a shorter season would eliminate guided hunts for black bear because guides can make more money on brown bear hunts once the seasons overlap.

''It always worked out really good to go black bear hunting for two weeks and then go brown bear hunting for two weeks,'' Newman said.

Another proposal before the Game Board would allow more elk hunters in the Wrangell area, where biologists fear animals introduced in 1987 may be competing with native Sitka black-tailed deer.

The department also proposed opening a beaver season near Haines and a cow moose season near Gustavus and letting hunters kill more moose in Berners Bay and more wolves on Prince of Wales Island.

The Game Board also is expected to discuss recommending to federal waterfowl regulators an earlier hunting season for the Sitka area because most birds have flown past Sitka by the time the current season starts.

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