Should State Approve Wolf-Control Measures on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula?

Courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot

Near the end of the movie “Season of the Witch,” a small band of medieval adventurers is surrounded by howling wolves. The monk says, “Wolves.” Another character asks, “What’ll we do?” Nicolas Cage, playing a knight in tarnished armor, says, “Kill as many as you can.”

Welcome to wildlife management as it is currently practiced in Alaska. Not so different from the way it was practiced in the Middle Ages.

I am not opposed to reducing numbers of wolves to increase numbers of prey animals — wolf control — so long as wolves constitute a serious problem and the program is scientifically justified, temporary and cost effective. Wolf control for the sake of killing wolves is none of the above.

This week, in Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, the Alaska Board of Game was scheduled to consider wolf control proposals for two game management units on the Kenai Peninsula: 15A and 15C.

Why was the board considering wolf control plans for the Kenai Peninsula at a meeting in Barrow?

When the board adopts a predator control plan, it takes 60 days before a program can be implemented. Ted Spraker, a board member from the Kenai Peninsula, was bound and determined to start shooting Kenai wolves this winter. But the board tabled both proposals until their Anchorage meeting, scheduled Jan. 13-18, 2012.

Board members, including Spraker, found serious flaws in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s documentation and expressed concern that a required feasibility plan wasn’t completed before the meeting.

Now most Alaskans wouldn’t get a chance until next year to examine the reasons why the department believes wolf control is justified on the Kenai Peninsula. The reasons are not persuasive.

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Small Bear Makes Big Mess in Ketchikan Grocery Store

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News

A bear walks into a grocery store. While that may sound like the start of joke, it’s what really happened Saturday in Ketchikan.

The Ketchikan Daily News and KRBD radio reported a small black bear cub walked in the front door of Tatsuda’s IGA. The scared animal found its way to a produce cooler, where it made a mess.

Meat department manager Joe Stollar filmed the bear’s capture. He said the little bear was just trying to hide.

A customer captured the bear and let it loose from the store’s back door onto a trail leading to the woods. Authorities suspect it was an orphaned bear since its mother wasn’t seen nearby.

Several thousand dollars of ruined produce was donated to a livestock owner.

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Are Guns More Effective Than Pepper Spray in an Alaska Bear Attack?

courtesy of the Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot

Another bunch of Outsiders suffer a mauling in Alaska. I’m not just referring to the grizzly bear attacking seven teens in late July. I’m talking about the drubbing dished out by Alaskans who believe a gun is the best — some would say only — insurance against a bear attack.

A flurry of swats and biting comments were delivered in response to articles in the Anchorage Daily News. Within days the first article racked up 945 often acidic jabs. Several follow-up articles provoked another 569 shots. Most of the authors used pseudonyms, but many comments appeared to be written by Alaskans.

What provoked the electronic attack? Seven teens ranging from 16-18 years old were in their fourth week of a wilderness backpacking course sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School. NOLS is a highly respected organization that teaches leadership, teamwork, environmental ethics, first aid, and wilderness skills, including bear safety. The group was on the first day of a “student expedition,” which caps the month-long course by permitting the teens to demonstrate what they had learned, without adult supervision. Surprised by a brown bear in the western Talkeetna Mountains, four of the teens sustained injuries. Three members of the group carried a can of bear spray, which none had time to deploy. The teens were not allowed to carry firearms.

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Juneau Man Pleads Guilty to Feeding Bears

courtesy of Juneau Empire
by J.E. Staff

The Juneau man who was accused of illegally feeding black bears pleaded guilty in Juneau District Court on Wednesday to one count of feeding game.

Arnold W. Hanger, 65, was fined $5,000 with $2,500 suspended, given 10 days in jail with all 10 suspended and ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to the state.

In addition, Hanger was ordered to perform 80 hours of community work service with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s Wildlife Division. Hanger was also placed on probation for two years.

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Lone Wolf Goes the Distance

courtesy of KTUU.com
by Ned Rozell

Somewhere in the rolling tundra east of Deadhorse, a lone wolf hunts. The 100-pound male will take anything it can catch, or find – a ptarmigan, a darting tundra rodent, a fish, the scraps of a carcass, or, if lucky, a moose calf or caribou. Hunger is a common companion, but the wolf somehow survived when his mate probably died of it last winter.

That event may have triggered the lone wolf’s incredible summer journey from south of the Yukon River to the crumbling shores of the Beaufort Sea. The wolf has traveled about 1,500 miles in four months, according to biologist John Burch, who works for the National Park Service.

Burch has studied wolves and the things wolves eat since the mid-1990s at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Last November, he was part of a team that helicoptered to Copper Creek, a remote tributary of the clear-running Charley River. There, he tranquilized a healthy male wolf and fitted it with a satellite radio collar. The collar transmits GPS coordinates from the wolf every few days, which has allowed Burch to follow the wolf¹s trans-Alaska trek this summer.

Burch would have preferred that the wolf remain near Yukon-Charley, 2.5 million acres where the Yukon flows into Alaska. The wolf’s collar is expensive and would give useful information about one of a dozen wolf packs
that use the preserve as part of their home range. But the lone male is telling the biologists a different story about wolf behavior – what happens when a pack breaks up.

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‘Tougher-Than-Nails’ Hunter Survives Grizzly Attack

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Casey Grove

A moose hunter attacked by a grizzly bear north of the Denali Highway survived the severe mauling Monday after hiking to his camp, traveling by boat downriver to a wilderness lodge then getting an airlift via Alaska Air National Guard helicopter to an Anchorage hospital.

Donald “Skip” Sanford, 65, was hunting about five miles upriver from the Maclaren River Lodge when the bear attacked, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Sanford had been hunting with his son John, 12, his friend Monty Dyson, 47, and Dyson’s son Chad, 22, Dyson said.

Dyson relayed Sanford’s story Tuesday by radio phone from the lodge, which sits on the highway 42 miles east of Cantwell.

Sanford walked away from camp Monday about 2 or 3 p.m. to find a hand-held radio he lost earlier, Dyson said.

Sanford was on a game trail when he saw the bear stand up, Dyson said. Sanford backed up, but the bear seemed to circle around him, Dyson said.

Sanford told rescuers he first saw the grizzly about 75 yards away from him, said Joe Snyder, one of the many people at the lodge who helped treat Sanford and get him out of the wilderness. The bear quickly closed the gap between them, Snyder said.

“He turned around and the bear was about 20 yards away, and it was coming at him pretty fast with its head down,” Snyder said.

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Does Science Back up Alaska’s Policy of Killing Grizzly Bears?

courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot

Four years ago the Alaska Legislature offered Gov. Sarah Palin and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game a special deal: $400,000 to “educate” voters on predator control. The money — spent mostly on a video, glossy brochures and public presentations — was meant to persuade and reassure Alaskans that predator control is essential and effective.

Firmly convinced he’s doing the right thing, the new director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation at Fish and Game, Corey Rossi, is taking predator control to new levels. For the first time since statehood, Alaska has targeted grizzly bears for large-scale population reductions, not by hunters but by agents of the state.

The publicity campaign, Rossi, Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature would like you to believe that scientific experts on predator and prey populations — particularly the professional wildlife biologists and researchers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game — unanimously support killing bears to increase numbers of moose and caribou.

But some of those experts have questioned the efficacy and advisability of reducing numbers of grizzly bears in a peer-reviewed article in the latest edition of the Journal of Wildlife Management.

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Soldotna Officer Kills Bear in Residential Area

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Associated Press

A police officer in Soldotna has shot and killed a large brown bear in a busy residential area after the animal charged him.

Police Chief John Lucking says Officer Victor Dillon spotted the bear crossing into a yard Thursday afternoon. Dillon thought it was likely an injured one that had been reported scavenging in the area for several days. The officer went looking for the bear on foot, armed with a shotgun. The next time he saw the bear it charged him, veering slightly as it approached, and he fired and killed it.

The chief says the bear likely was attracted by a fresh caribou head within a few feet of where the bear was shot. Lucking says someone apparently had just butchered the caribou and the smell and head attracted the bear.

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Bear Drags Teen Camper out of Tent at Site Near Fairbanks

Courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by the Associated Press

An 18-year-old camper had a rough encounter with a black bear near Fairbanks Saturday.

Thomas Gilligan was awakened by the bear, which dragged him partially out of his tent in the Angel Rocks area.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said Gilligan sustained scratches on his back, but no serious injuries.

“I was sleeping, and I heard it, but I thought it was my friends messing around,” Gilligan said.

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Bear Runs Over Hiker on Chugach State Park Trail

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Lisa Demer

A hiker in Chugach State Park was run over by a grizzly bear this morning after surprising it on the overgrown South Fork Rim Trail, a state biologist said.

The hiker was scratched, but not seriously hurt, said Jessy Coltrane, Anchorage-area biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

Park rangers closed the South Fork trail because of the encounter, which she called a mauling. The trail runs parallel to the powerline trail at Prospect Heights.

“The bear basically ran over him,” Coltrane said.

The hiker was with another person and two dogs on leashes that were wearing bear bells. They were less than 30 minutes from the Prospect Heights parking lot, she said.

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Groups Seek Protection for Wolf Subspecies in Southeast Alaska

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Becky Bohrer

Environmental groups want special protection for a subspecies of gray wolf found in Southeast Alaska old-growth forests.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace say the Alexander Archipelago wolf is threatened by unsustainable logging and road building in the Tongass National Forest.

The groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Endangered Species Act protection for the wolf. An agency spokesman hadn’t seen the petition Wednesday.

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Growing up Dall

Dall sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) young, called lambs, are born in late May or early June. As lambing approaches, ewes seek solitude and protection from predators in the most rugged cliffs available on their spring ranges. Ewes bear a single lamb, and the ewe-lamb pairs remain in the lambing cliffs a few days until the lambs are strong enough to travel. Lambs begin feeding on vegetation within a week after birth and are usually weaned by October. Normally, ewes have their first lamb at age 3 and produce a lamb annually.

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Alaska Study Finds Female Moose Manipulate Males to Fight

courtesy of News Daily
by Yereth Rosen

Moose-mating season, just around the corner in Alaska, means crisp fall days, ripe berries on the bushes and, according to a new study, animal behavior that might seem more at home in a rowdy singles bar.

Female moose, or cows, are able to manipulate amorous males into fighting each other, allowing the more desirable bulls to emerge as mates, according to the study, which is based on observations made in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

The cows’ efforts are subtle, so they have long been overshadowed by the belligerent, antler-clashing behavior of bull moose in rutting season, said the study, which published by the academic journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

“Because we have so much aggression in the big males, it actually masks female choice,” said Terry Bowyer, a biologist at Idaho State University and one of the study’s authors.

Female moose use protest moans to ward off small male suitors, the study points out.

Bowyer and his study partners found they also use those protest moans when approached by some big suitors, setting off fights between large bull moose.

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