Fairbanks debates federal proposal on predator hunts

FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks residents have shown support for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal that would ban some bear, wolf and coyote hunts on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska.

A majority of people who testified at a public hearing in Fairbanks on Wednesday were in favor of the federal agency’s predator hunting restrictions, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The rules proposed in January would prohibit brown bear baiting, killing wolves and coyotes during the denning season and targeting bears with snares or traps. Hunts like those violate the agency’s conservation mission by deliberately targeting predators to increase the output of large game animal like deer, caribou and moose for human consumption, according to the text of the proposed rule.

The regulations would be implemented on about 77 million acres of federal land in Alaska.

Supporters of the new hunting rules criticized the state government’s predator control policy as well as the Alaska Board of Game, which makes the state’s hunting rules.

“The current Board of Game reminds me of a bunch of teenage boys turned loose after hours in a liquor store without supervision,” said Frank Maxwell, who described himself as a retired Department of Natural Resources employee.

Others cited ethical oppositions to the hunting techniques allowed by the state to increase prey species, such as moose and caribou.

“Hunting is going out and looking for things, searching for things, not putting a pile of doughnuts on the ground and sitting there waiting for a bear to come by,” said Mary Shields, who introduced herself as a member of an ad-hoc group called Alaskans for Wildlife.

The proposed rules did draw opposition from some attendees at the Wednesday meeting.

Rod Arno, the executive director of the statewide sportsmen group Alaska Outdoor Council, said he was against the rules because of the effect on subsistence users.

“It’s disingenuous for this proposal and its proposers to say that this will have no effect on subsistence users when anyone who’s been in Alaska for 40 years realizes that without predator prey management you have low level abundance of wildlife,” Arno said.

The Fish and Game Advisory Committee chairman, Virgil Umphenour, said his group is adamantly opposed to the regulations.

The proposal’s public comment period ends March 8, but opponents are seeking an extension.

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