Story last updated at 2:47 p.m. Thursday, October 10, 2002

Kenai brown bear hunt called off
by Will Morrow
Morris News Service-Alaska

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the fall hunting season for brown bear on the Kenai Peninsula.

"We've been hinting toward this for the past month or two," said Fish and Game area management biologist Jeff Selinger. "We didn't want to make the decision until the final numbers came in and we had everything summarized."

The emergency order, which closes the season that had been scheduled to start Oct. 15 and to run through Oct. 31, comes after several brown bears were killed this summer in defense of life and property and in traffic collisions.

Fish and Game manages for a population of 250 to 300 brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula, which is divided into game management units 7 and 15. Unit 7 includes the eastern portion of the peninsula, from Hope to Seward, and the Kenai Fjords National Park. The central and southern peninsula, including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the Caribou Hills and the area around Kachemak Bay, comprise Unit 15.

The current management plan allows for an average annual human-caused mortality -- including hunter harvest, defense of life and property, automobile collisions and illegally taken bears -- of 14 or fewer bears and not more than six female units per year.

Fish and Game counts a female bear less than 3 years old as one half unit while a female older than 3 is considered one full unit.

Since April, 7 1/2 female units have been taken on the Kenai Peninsula.

Selinger said there is interest from hunters in continuing a brown bear hunt of the peninsula.

"From what I've heard, I think there is a lot of demand for a brown bear season," Selinger said. "However, in recent years, people have gotten used to an on-again, off-again season."

Last year's season lasted just a couple of days before ending by emergency order. The season opened one female bear under the limit, but a sow was harvested within the first few days of the hunt.

Several bears were killed in defense of life and property during the summer, and four were killed in traffic collisions.

"This year, we seem to have had a rash of brown bears being hit by cars," Selinger said. "My guess is this is somewhat of an anomaly. We probably will not see four bears being hit by cars next summer."

Selinger did note that the number of bears killed in defense of life and property has been on the rise over the past few years, and said that would be one of the issues the Interagency Brown Bear Study Team would take up when it meets this month.

Will Morrow is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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