Don’t be The Dodo, You Can’t Kill Hibernating Bears in Alaska

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The horror! The shock! The inhumanity! Wouldn’t you guess it, with only three months under his belt President Trump and the Republicans have already decided to declare open season on innocent bear cubs and wolf pups – soon there will be none of these majestic creatures left!

Or at least, that’s the impression you would get if you had seen most of the reporting regarding H.J. Resolution 69 here’s a PSA from the The Dodo:

The concerns as I understand them seem to be

  1. “Trophy” hunters using airplanes to kill bears and wolves on the same day.
  2. The killing of “denned” adult wolves and hibernating bears.
  3. The killing of wolf pups and bear cubs.
  4. Using steel jawed traps & baiting.
  5. These practices culminate in the elimination of bears and wolves from Alaska.

This story came to my attention from multiple friends who were outraged about what was happening under the Trump administration, so I decided to do a little leg work and see what were the facts (imagine a website doing that!). You can imagine my surprise when the text of the joint resolution mentioned nothing about trophy hunting or any of the other concerns, it simply reads “This joint resolution nullifies the rule finalized by the Department of the Interior on August 5, 2016, relating to non-subsistence takings of wildlife and public participation and closure procedures on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.” In the few sources that I previewed for this article, none actually linked to the Fish and Wildlife ruling – which I found rather easily – and upon reading and annotating the document I discovered the regulation had little to do with the killing of denned bears and wolves (which it still allows) but instead a stated difference in mission between The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Alaska Board of Game (BOG).

 

According to the rule, which will be overturned if President Trump signs the Joint Resolution, the difference comes from Alaska’s recent adoption of an “Intensive Management Statute which includes predator control as a way to increase the populations of moose, elk, deer, etc. for human consumption. According to the ruling, this directive differed from FWS’s stated mandate to “preserve the natural wildlife and their habitats.” In other words, in order for there to be more moose etc. to hunt, the Alaskan government decided to give themselves the authority to allow for increased hunting of predator species. Where FWS would normally defer to Alaska, they chose to write regulations countermanding these directives on federal land. Now, there are already regulations in place that allow for the legal hunting of wolves and bears in Alaska – and the FWS make no attempt to countermand these practices – therefore the point in question remains the Intensive Management (IM) statute. Let’s proceed to take the 5 objections in order

  1. Trophy Hunters using airplanes to kill bears and wolves on the same day

The term “trophy” hunter is rather ambiguous, and reeks of political rhetoric – the FWS makes no mention of “trophy” hunting and neither do the IM procedures adopted by Alaska. In fact, this specific hunting practice is only open to residents of Alaska and currently is only in effect for the reduction of wolf populations, bears are not currently being targeted. This is far from the open season that much of the sensationalized media coverage would lead you to believe.

  1. The killing of “denned” adult wolves and hibernating bears

Again, bears are currently not being targeted by Alaska BOG for predator control. Under IM statutes, there is no mention of allowing the killing of bears during hibernation, and any killing of wolves while they are “denned” are approved with very specific limits.

  1. The killing of wolf pups and bear cubs

The statute does not give any authority for the killing of bear pups under IM (but other laws and FWS regulation approved by the humane society et al does allow for the hunting of black bear pups and their mothers for traditional uses). Quoting from the IM statute “The killing of wolf young in the den, commonly known as “denning”, is prohibited, unless the commissioner authorizes the killing of wolf young in the den in areas under a predation control implementation plan.” So yes, under IM it is possible that wolf pups will be killed in the den, but it is not a common practice, nor one that is allowed outside of these targeted reductions. This seems a far cry from the sensationalized stories circulating around social media.

  1. Using Steel Jaw Traps & Baiting

The practice of “trapping” is allowed under Alaska law, but the FWS regulation only prohibited the trapping of bears on federal land. While there may be some ethical concerns in regards to using a trap that can be argued, the FWS saw fit to only address its use on one species. This practice will continue in its legal form for multiple animals even if President Trump does not sign the Joint Resolution. Additionally, the practice of baiting is still allowed under the FWS regulation as written.

  1. These practices culminate in the elimination of bears and wolves

Under the IM statute, it clearly states that “The commissioner shall stop the taking of bears [wolves] under the implementation plan and, if necessary, stop other instances of taking of bears [wolves] in the affected area for the remainder of the regulatory year, when plan objectives adopted by the board for that area have been reached for that year.” In each case of IM, predator control is not a carte blanche killing spree, but a targeted exercise to increase the populations of other animal species.

It should be evident by now that while different from FWS’s stated purpose, Alaska’s IM procedures are not looking to completely eliminate predator species, nor are they allowing for the indiscriminate killing of wolf pups or bear cubs. The nature of media today means that websites like The Dodo, NowThis, and Huffington Post are looking to find any story that will drive you to their websites and pages. Apparently, all of them felt comfortable lying to you in order to do so. While an honest debate can be had as to what kind of hunting should occur (and certainly one as to the effectiveness of IM practices), the removal of this regulation does not create an “open season” for these predators, and for all hunters who travel to Alaska nothing will change. It took a little bit of digging to discover these facts, a service we’re happy to provide at Subversive Liberty – the real question is why these sources don’t expect the same diligence from their writers in the first place.

 

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