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Game board makes white black bear protection permanent

Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Rare white-colored black bears are now off-limits to hunters in the Juneau area.

The state Board of Game has granted permanent status to a temporary order to protect such bears. It was among the decisions made by the seven-member panel, which considered some Juneau, regional and statewide issues at its biennial Southeast meeting that concluded Thursday. Board member Tim Towarak of Nome was absent.

Juneau resident Pat Costello's August photographs of the white-colored bear were publicized on his Web site and became the subject of worldwide media coverage. The Game Board later that month issued a temporary emergency order to protect white-colored black bears in the Juneau area from hunting.

On Thursday the board unanimously made the order permanent.

The white-colored black bear prompted hundreds of e-mails from around the country in its favor and a petition of 110 local people to let it be hunted, the Juneau Empire reported.

''I think it's a special, unique resource that is widely recognized, not just in Alaska,'' said board member Joel Bennett of Juneau. ''We have precedent elsewhere in Alaska for (protecting) a white moose. It's one of those things, as well, that helps to build a bridge between consumptive users and nonconsumptive users.''

But some hunters were concerned the term white-colored wasn't well-defined. They worried hunters who killed gray bears could be prosecuted.

Hunters also objected to setting a precedent for managing single types of animals rather than whole populations.

''Southeast is home to many shades and color of black bear,'' Barry Brokken told the board Sunday. ''To single out one color for protection begs the question why.''

S.D. Paris of Wales, sending an e-mail to the Game Board through Costello, had visited Juneau last year.

Letting the bear be killed ''would be tantamount to allowing someone to enter a museum and destroy a unique item just so they could take a piece home,'' Paris wrote.

In another Juneau issue, the Game Board voted 6-0 Wednesday to try educating waterfowl hunters in the Mendenhall Wetlands about safety and consideration for homeowners, rather than close portions of the state game refuge to hunters. About 600 to 800 people hunt in the refuge each year, state wildlife managers said.

Juneau resident Melissa Green, who lives next to the wetlands, testified hunters have sprayed her house and her husband with shot. She asked the Game Board to create a no-hunting buffer around houses.

But the board agreed with a proposal by the state Department of Fish and Game to require Mendenhall Wetlands hunters to register at no cost each season. It would give officials the opportunity to talk to hunters. Those who don't register won't be allowed to hunt in the wetlands the following year.

''The hunters need to solve the problem or risk a larger closure later on,'' Bennett said.

On Tuesday, the Game Board voted to protect wolves on Douglas Island from hunting and trapping until the wolf population builds up or the number of deer declines drastically.



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