Bear hunt closes before it begins

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hunters who have been cleaning their rifles and adjusting their scopes in the hope of bagging a big bruin can go ahead and put their weapons away for another year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order Friday announcing that the Kenai Peninsula's fall brown bear registration hunt will not open this season. The reason being the total human-caused mortality of brown bears is at the management limit in game management Units 7 and 15.

"The department recommends a three-year average of human-caused mortalities that does not exceed 20 total bears, nor exceed eight female bears older than one year," according to a Fish and Game statement.

"The current three year average, from 2003-2005, of human-caused mortalities of brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula is eight females older than one year and 17 total bears. The total number of brown bears reported killed in 2005 is 17 bears, including seven females.

"Any additional mortality would exceed the current management objective."

There has always been interest in the fall brown bear hunt. In 1999, Fish and Game issued 154 permits for it. In 2000 it was 147, and in 2001 it was 98. In 2002 and 2003, the hunt was canceled as a result of the high number of brown bears killed before hunting season opened.

In 2004, the hunt opened with more than 250 hunters registered. However, it closed by emergency order after only two days in an effort to not exceed the management objective.

Although unavailable for comment Friday, in the past Jeff Selinger, area management biologist with Fish and Game in Soldotna, has said, "In the big picture, an overharvest of even one animal could significantly impact the brown bear hunt for several years."

The brown bear registration hunt was scheduled for Oct. 15-31 in Game management Units 7 and 15.

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