View From Kaktovik, Alaska on Polar Bears and Global Warming

courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Will Rose and Kajsa Sjölander

Beaufort Sea polar bears find themselves in the crosshairs of global warming, forced to adapt to less and less ice that’s critical to the way they hunt and survive.

As Arctic sea ice retreats up to 700 miles from the shoreline during summer months, bears must either head north or swim south to land as the ice breaks up. In 2011, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service scientists working in the area have counted 49 bears within 10 miles of Kaktovik, the largest concentration of the estimated 70-80 spread along the coastline.

Those bears represent up to 10 percent of the southern Beaufort population, estimated at 1,500 animals five years ago by U.S. Geological Survey.

The number of polar bears coming to land is increasing over the past decade but scientists are unsure why. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the primary threat to polar bears is the loss of sea ice habitat due to climate change. Whale remains left by local substance hunters may be another factor.

“A lot of bears showed up just after a big wind storm,” said polar bear guide Robert Thompson of Kaktovik. “Biologists said they saw eight dead polar bears floating in the water. We believe the thin ice broke up beneath them so they had to sink or swim.”

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Wandering Wolf Now Too Famous to be Shot?

Courtesy of MSNBC

A young wolf from Oregon has become a media celebrity while looking for love, tracing a zigzag path that has carried him hundreds of miles nearly to California, while his alpha male sire and a sibling that stayed home near the Idaho border are under a death warrant for killing cattle.

Backcountry lodge owner Liz Parrish thinks she locked eyes with the wolf called OR-7 on the edge of the meadow in front of her Crystalwood Lodge, on the western shore of Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon, and hopes someday she will hear his howls coming out of the tall timber.

“I was stunned — it was such a huge animal,” said Parrish, who has seen her share of wolves while racing dog sleds in Alaska and Minnesota. “He just stopped and stared. I stopped and stared. We had a stare-down that seemed like a long time, but was probably just a few seconds.

“He just evaporated into the trees. I stayed there awhile, hoping he might come back. He didn’t.”

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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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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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Michigan Man Killed by Grizzly in Yellowstone

courtesy of MSNBC
by Matthew Brown

Wildlife agents were trying to capture a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Monday after it killed a Michigan hiker in the second fatal bear attack this summer at the famed park.

The body of John Wallace, 59, was discovered Friday in a backcountry area known for its high population of bears. An autopsy concluded he died from injuries sustained in a bear attack.

After a fatal mauling last month — the first inside the increasingly crowded park in 25 years — authorities let the responsible grizzly go because it was protecting its cubs.

This time, rangers have set traps with the intent to capture and kill the bruin that attacked Wallace. Its guilt would be established through DNA analysis connecting it to evidence found at the mauling scene, park officials 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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Bears Trapped in Downtown Juneau

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News

State biologists have trapped a black bear in downtown Juneau, but they say it’s not the nuisance bear they were looking for.

Fish and Game biologist Ryan Scott says the agency received reports of a mother and cub causing disturbances in the area. He says the wrong female bear was caught Wednesday.

Scott says that bear will be relocated out of town and that the agency will continue looking for the mother bear.

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