Some of you may have seen the ADN article today on the Unit 16 bear control plans:
But the article used incorrect data as far as population estimates for Unit 16B black bears. I wanted to fill everyone in on the actual numbers.
According to Proposal #70 from the March BOG meeting, which asked to institute this bear predation control program in Unit 16B, "the spring 2003 population estimate for black bears in Unit 16B was 1183-2402." This is the most recent estimate.
To put that another way to better clarify it, ADFG is saying that there are 1792 black bears in the unit +/- 610 bears. What that means if we look at percentages is that ADFG estimates there are 1792 black bears +/- 34%.
A margin of error of 34% is pretty darn high. To put it more bluntly, ADFG is saying that there COULD BE only 1183 black bears in all of Unit 16B. The plan calls for the killing of 900-1400 bears. If indeed there is only 1183 bears (and ADFG has admitted that is possible), then killing off the overwhelming majority of them, including sows and cubs, would not be prudent.
Futhermore, the most recent studies we have on black bear predation of moose calves show that it is predominantly the boars who are large enough in size to fend off a cow moose and kill calves. The females just aren't big enough in general. With grizzlies, both sows and boars are large enough to take calves consistently.
ADFG should be required to do a hair-snag dna density estimate in this unit to get more accurate bear density information, prior to a control program like this. If biologists are going to recommend that we kill 60% of black bears in order to boost moose densities, it is only prudent that they first determine just how many black bears there really are.
Allowing "hunters" to kill an unlimited amount of black bears, including sows with cubs and including same-day airborne "taking," is also not in our best interests. Sure, this is really "predator control," but only a very few are going to view the people doing this as "predator control agents." They will look at them as hunters.
This bear control plan goes way too far. We don't have the research we need to justify it, and we don't have the data we need to carry it out without potential long-lasting negative effects to the black bear population.