From the Newsminer article above:["Fish and Game staff shot 89 bears 84 black bears and five grizzlies in game management unit 19A along the Kuskokwim River during a two-week program that began on May 13 and ended Monday...Biologists shot the bears from a helicopter in a 530-square mile area of state land that is a small part of unit 19A...The nearly 8,000 pounds of meat from the bears, valued at approximately $80,000, was distributed to villagers in Aniak, Chuathbaluk, Crooked Creek, Lime Village, Kalskag, Red Devil, Sleetmute and Stony River...The bear control area is so small that killing 89 bears wont have an effect on the overall bear population in the unit...A wolf control program has been in effect in a larger portion of unit 19A since 2004 but has not had a measurable effect on the moose population...Approximately 150 wolves have been killed in the area in the past 10 years...Most of the bear control area was within a larger wolf control area.
89 Total bears killed
84 Black bears killed
5 Grizzly bears killed
530 Size of the control area in square miles
8,000 Approximate pounds of bear meat distributed to residents in eight villages.
80,000 Amount in dollars the bear meat was valued at
230,000 Amount in dollars the program cost"
I honestly think that the science isn't behind this and that it's a step too far. What we learned from the Unit 16 bear control program, is that killing a bunch of bears in smaller areas had absolutely no effect on unit-wide moose densities, and that bears from other areas quickly moved into the areas where bears had been greatly controlled. We also learned that in areas that >50% of the time see deep-snow, moose-killing winters, that control efforts are often not efficacious. I recall when Mark Keech gave a presentation to the BOG about the McGrath bear-control efforts, where they removed and relocated over a hundred bears from a similar smaller control area. The takeaway I got from his presentation was this line: "What really affects winter survival is snow depth."
F&G spokesperson Cathy Harms said that, Within the next year or two we should be able to see an increase in moose numbers." I guess we'll see. She also said that the program won't have a permanent effect on the moose population.
Look, I'm glad that some local skinners were able to make some money and that F&G designed this so the public would do the skinning and butchering and the meat would be utilized, and not wasted. Then again, how is black bear meat worth $10/pound, as F&G has estimated? That seems a pretty high assumption to me.
I don't know what Alaska is coming to, but this frankly saddens me if this is the new road we are going to take with bears. Widespread snaring, unlimted take of black bears, including sows with cubs and cubs, wasn't enough ... it didn't prove efficacious in Unit 16 ... so now we are going to resort to aerial shooting of bears by the Dept in another low-density moose unit that also sees deep-snow winters, at great costs. At what point should villagers take responsibility for going out trapping and hunting and taking bears? But hey, I think the state has proven now that no matter what methods we allow the public to use, no matter what liberalizations we allow for (aside from aerial gunning), that the public simply can't take enough bears (or wolves) to effectively boost low-density moose populations. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with this type of program that I believe is a huge black eye on Alaska and the hunting community.
What kind of results do we need to see to prove this is effective or not? What percentage of moose calf survival or increased moose densities, or moose harvests in this smaller control area will make hunters and the state say, "it worked"? And thus, "let's do it in other areas."
As the article states: The moose harvest in all of unit 19A has averaged between 75 and 100 moose the past five years. The harvest objective set by the Board of Game for the unit is 400 to 550 moose."
So in two years if we see an average harvest in all of 19A of 125 moose, was it worth it? And in five years when, like in the McGrath removal and relocation efforts where the bear numbers had rebounded to even more than were initially removed, what then? Another $230K to kill bears from helos? And what about those deep-snow winters prevalent in the region?
We just can't get what "we" hunters want across the state. I fear we've crossed a line in trying to do so. It wasn't that many years ago that Fish & Game and the Board of Game said that the aerial shooting of bears was socially unacceptable. And a great number of hunters, majorities even, agreed. And look where we are now. Bears are the new "vermin." We waive meat-salvage requirements for perfectly good and edible meat in order to incentivize more killing of them, while at the same time the state ensures in other areas that the meat is utilized from these aerially-killed bears to ostensibly feed rural village peoples.
I know many here will disagree with me on this. And it isn't that I don't respect those who support this type of program, so any disagreement isn't personal or means I don't see the other side. I think there is a time and place for some pred-control efforts. But we're now straying way too far imo from science and efficacy and into the realm of these "experiments" that aren't even grounded in real scientific experimentation. It's a shoot-from-the-hip approach; hey we have the power to do these things now so let's do it and see what happens, overall public opinion be dam*ed. That's what we did with bear snaring. And the farther we go, the easier it (sadly) seems to be for more hunters to get on board with it.