There are so many wonderful things to write about regarding the wolves and bears of Alaska, especially when so many great experiences are so fresh in mind from recent trips. I have seen first-hand how valuable our watchable wildlife is to people from all corners of the world, and cannot justly express this in words. Unfortunately, I must ask for help on an issue that is very dear to the hearts of myself, my colleagues, and many of the people I have guided in the past. I hope everyone who reads this article will voice their concerns over the continuation of allowed brown bear trophy hunting in Katmai Preserve, which borders Katmai National Park. The heart of this issue, and all of its complexities, was explained very well in an article by Bill Sherwonit, and I encourage everyone to read it so that they understand the matter fully. Click here to read article.
In 2007, I assisted Anchorage’s channel 9 news team and wildlife filmmaker Daniel Zatz, to document what is likely one of the cruelest and most inappropriate hunts on earth. This was one of the most disturbing events in my entire life. We witnessed the needless slaughter of valuable, human habituated brown bears, many of whom are viewed by bear watchers at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, which is very close to the hunting area, as well as in the Preserve itself. This is not an ethical hunt, and the bears are far more valuable alive than dead. If you want to see the footage from the hunt click here, but be warned, it is extremely disturbing. Our intention was to garner support in fighting to close this hunt, or at the very least, to ensure very strict management of the numbers of bears taken. As it stands now, there is no limit on the number of bears taken during the hunts, and it is believed by some that a decade of overharvesting has resulted in significant population drops of bears in the region, although there is no hard to scientific evidence to support this. The Park Service stands by its data, which support that overharvest has not taken place. Continued improvement in population monitoring will help make more accurate assumptions.
The National Park Service is open to comments relating to how this hunt will be managed until August 15th. The closure of the hunt is almost entirely unlikely because it is allowed under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA Section 1313). The Park Service does not have the power to do this at this time. The Park Service does, however, have the power to regulate certain aspects of the hunt, and allocate ample funds to monitor bear populations to ensure healthy numbers.
In a perfect world, an act of congress would allow the Park Service to manage for the full value of the viewable bears of Katmai, and impose a moratorium on the hunt. This population of bears provides the greatest opportunites for bear viewing and photography on earth because these bears have learned to trust people, and hunting violates this trust in the rawest form. The higher the level of trust between man and bears, the higher the quality of the bear viewing. There is a group of folks up here who will never stop fighting for this cause, because they love the bears and all that they symbolize. I invite you to join this group.
Please communicate to the Park Service in a respectful private email if you are feel that the bears of Katmai deserve to be treated as the world treasure that I believe they are. They have limits bound by law of what they can achieve in this matter, but it will always help the cause if they hear support from the wildlife watchers of the world. Encourage them to be conservative in their hunting management. Email Lisa Fox of the NPS: Lisa_Fox@nps.gov