Help Stop Alaska Board of Shame, I mean Game…..

image of bear and wolf together, alaska, picture, photo, grizzly bear and wolf, brad josephs

The wolves and bears of Alaska are the character and integrity of the wilderness. Without them, the land is nothing but a hunting ranch. The Alaska Board of Game must be fought.

Here is a letter I recently emailed to the National Park Service at AKRO_compendium@nps.gov   to support their resistance to the State of Alaska’s proposed predator control measures on National Preserve lands which are run by the Park Service.  Please take a minute and support the NPS by writing a similar, personalized letter to the above email address.  We only have till april 5th! I thank the alaska wildlife alliance for helping us stay on top of these issues. They do great work!

As a resident of Alaska, I have made my living as a bear and wolf viewing guide in Katmai since 2000. I applaud the NPS for standing up to the Alaska Board of Game to halt the slaughter of predators, namely bears and wolves. Having a background in Wildlife Biology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, I have a solid understanding and belief that this is not sound wildlife management. I believe it is a scheme supported only by the hunting industry, and can cause damage to habitat through overbrowsing. I also believe that these methods directly undermine the quality of wildlife viewing, which is an invaluable resource which supports locals and brings in visitors from around the world. I do not approve of the extreme predator control methods the state allows, such as:

•Allowing hunters to use bait to attract grizzlies to snares;
•Permitting hunters to use spotlights to find and kill black bears and cubs in their dens;
•Extending hunting seasons for wolves and coyotes; and
•Drastically increasing harvest limits for predators (for example, 20 years ago the limit for wolves was commonly five per season – today in some preserves there is a limit of 10 wolves per day)

Manipulation of wildlife using these methods strips the wilderness of its character and integrity, can cause long lasting habitat degradation, and decreases the quality of wildlife viewing. The Wildlife on NPS lands belongs to everyone, and should not be controlled and “farmed” by the Board of Game.

Thank you for letting me voice my opinion,

Brad Josephs

check out another recent debunking of the Alaska Board of Game’s slaughter of bears on the kenai peninsula by former state biologist Rick Sinnot- click here

Here is well done but disturbing video about aerial wolf hunting in Alaska

 

Values of the Grizzly

image of grizzly mother and cubs, alaska

A female coastal grizzly teaches her cubs to dig clams on an Alaska Peninsula Beach.

In my opinion the grizzly is the ultimate symbol of North American wilderness. Grizzlies are deeply embedded into our lore, and embody the character of our wild places. For centuries grizzlies were extinguished from their home range, and are now absent from most of their native habitat. The Sierra Nevadas, the Colorado Rockies, the Wind Rivers, The Wasatch, the Great Plains, and the Black Hills, to name a few, are all much tamer places now that the great grizzlies have been eradicated. Only the legends and the ghosts remain.

I have been enchanted by the grizzly bear since I was a child. I was never into trucks and soldiers and video games, like many young boys, but by age 10 I had read every book written on grizzlies to date. I admired their ferocity, toughness, and ability to intimidate humans as much as any creature on our continent. I eventually moved to Alaska for college, mostly to be closer to grizzlies.

I will never forget my first serious encounter with a grizzly while living in Haines during my first summer in Alaska twenty years ago. I was fishing for salmon alone along the banks of the Chilkoot River around dusk. Having had a funny feeling that I was no longer alone, I turned around and stared right into the eyes of a giant female grizzly and her two cubs. As my stomach tightened into a knot, and adrenaline blasted through my veins, I wondered what I was supposed to do. Should I shout at her, play dead, jump into the river? I knelt down in submission and froze. The mother bear slowly put her head down and started grazing on sedges gradually closing the distance, with their heads to the ground, to around 25 feet. My fear subsided, and I savored this strange sensation of being at the mercy of both the scariest and the most beautiful creature I had ever dreamed of. She made eye contact with me again, studied me, and carried on upstream with her cubs. She trusted me and let me go. I was hopelessly hooked, and thankfully, this was only the beginning….

sow grizzly, mother bear, picture of mother grizzly

Beautiful blond female grizzly. Katmai Coast, Alaska


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Filming Grizzlies with Gopros In Alaska

brad josephs, alaska, bears image

Me holding up a one of the few gopros that was discovered and damaged by a Grizzly. Photo Buck Wilde

image gopro, grizzly

Image taken with gopro of a grizzly stepping only inches away

Two summers ago I was hired by the BBC to guide the film crew for a production called the Great Bear Stakeout.  My main assignments were tracking the monster male bear we call Van, tracking wolves and hoping to film them with bears, and most importantly, to help set up remote, unmaned cameras to get super up-close wide angle shots that would be impossible to film otherwise, or if we were nearby (click here for more on this).  Tracking Van proved to be extremely difficult later in the summer, and the wolves were elusive, although we did film an amazing scene of wolves watching Pushki and Parsnip which is about halfway through episode 2, but filming bears with unmaned gopro cameras was hugely successful!  The highlights of the gopro footage appear in episode 1 that we acquired in the June filming season.  While guiding Grizzly viewing trips for Natural Habitat in July and August, I continued using gopros to add to the BBC’s collection.   I filmed one clip of a grizzly cub chewing on the gopro, but not damaging it, and this video went viral on youtube, and was featured on nearly every form of media in the world.  I just found the hard drive with all the raw footage from that season, and put together a few more clips.  My favorite is a mixture of bear footage and time lapses.  I sped up the clips in adobe premiere to up to 3500% to show the passage of time, and the movement of clouds and sunlight, but slowed to normal speed whenever a bear came close to the camera.  Check it out!

This footage is what I was trying to get.  Bears doing their thing, ignoring the tiny grey boxes, which look so much like rocks I often had a hard time collecting them after their jobs were done.  The bears almost always ignored these cameras.  They were obviously not baited with anything, because 99% of the time if a bear did see one of the cameras, they would be crushed and destroyed, as bears have a bit of a naughty side and like to show off their strength.  I also never want to distract a bear from doing what it would normally do, as they have a lot of work to do trying to gain enough weight to survive winter hibernation. Baiting cameras is also illegal, unethical, and can create dangerous associations between bears and people that can prove to be fatal for both bears and the cameramen.   The secret is to go unnoticed by an animal who notices everything.  Here is another clip of a female and two 7 month old cubs walking past the camera, paying it no attention.

Here is a short clip from different angles of a bear chasing salmon, including an underwater view!

And of coarse, here is one of the versions when ”a grizzly ate my gopro.”

I dont suggest anyone trying to get this type of footage of bears in the future here, as the use of unmaned cameras is illegal in Katmai. We had special, one-time permission from Park Service that summer for this documentary. But I will experiment with filming nature and scenery with gopros in the future, as it is a very safe, unobtrusive way of filming wildlife very close, without having an impact on their behavior. Gopro recently contacted me, and offered to sponsor me in various ways. Check out my friend, and fellow guide Justin Gibson’s very cool video of arctic and red fox checking out his gopro in Churchill, Manitoba!

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NORTH TO THE FUTURE! Brad

Note- still images are screenshots from HD video.  Thank Buck WIlde for the top photo of me- click here to check out Buck’s very cool blog!