People often ask why Alaska permits the killing of bears and wolves by state personnel and public hunters. Much of the blame can be put on the Intensive Management law (IM), which reads, “the Alaska Board of Game shall adopt regulations to provide for intensive management programs to restore the abundance or productivity of identified big game populations as necessary to achieve human consumption goals…” AS 16.05.255 (e).
Essentially, the Board of Game prioritizes populations of caribou, moose, deer for human consumption, and is authorized to take action to increase those populations. And while the Intensive Management law allows for habitat improvement to increase populations of big game, the Board of Game prefers to use predator control. Simply put by a past state wildlife manager, “We go into an area and kill 80% of the wolves.”
Intensive Management provides for aerial shooting of wolves, the gassing of pups in their dens, as well as outrageously liberalized hunting regulations for brown bears, which include baiting bears, shooting bears in dens, and sometimes year-round hunting seasons. According to a recent scientific article (linked below), 76% of Alaska is “liberalized brown bear hunting area”, and reported kills of brown bears by hunters have more than doubled in the last thirty years.
Despite these aggressive hunting tactics, there are not any claims of increased harvests of adult moose or caribou in these areas.. which is, after all, the whole point of the Intensive Management Plan.
Though IM claims to use science to back its predator killings, recent studies have shown the importance of apex predators; the removal of even part of a population of predators in an area can lead to losses in biodiversity down the entire food chain. The effect is so great that intensive management of a predator population can cause such severe behavioral and genetic changes in the hunted population that the effects are seen in neighboring populations that have no predator control, as seen in the Yukon–Charley Rivers National Preserve.
All in all, Intensive Management is outdated and regressive. The Board of Game utterly lacks transparency with the public in regards to the lack of science backing its claims, as well as the excessive and unethical ways in which it manages Alaska’s predators. What we have here is the turning of Alaska wildlands into hunting farms, and ridding Alaska of the IM Act must be a longer term objective.
Want more information? Check out the article HERE by William J. Ripple, Sterling D. Miller, John W. Schoen, and Sanford P. Rabinowitch, for more information!