Web posted Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Game board to tackle range of Southeast issues


JUNEAU (AP) -- The Alaska Board of Game will meet in Juneau in November to decide among conflicting interests of people who shoot or trap wildlife and those who just want to view animals.

The board, meeting Nov. 1-7, mostly will take up hunting and trapping proposals that affect Southeast.

Hot issues are likely to include proposals to protect rare, white-colored black bears from hunters, to halt the hunting and trapping of wolves on Douglas Island until a sustainable population has built up, and to register waterfowl hunters who use the Mendenhall Wetlands or stop them from hunting near homes.

The Game Board, in a temporary emergency order in late August, forbade the hunting of white-colored black bears in the Juneau area. It acted at the request of local resident Pat Costello, whose photographs of such a bear led to media reports that went around the world.

Now the Game Board will consider making its order permanent, the Juneau Empire reported.

''Some people would like to take pictures of the bear. Some would like to shoot it,'' Neil Barten, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, told the Juneau Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Committee last week.

All but one of the advisory committee members -- composed of anglers, commercial fishermen, hunters, trappers and an environmentalist -- opposed the permanent rule, saying the term ''white-colored'' in the rule was too vague. They were concerned hunters who shoot the gray-colored black bears known as glacier bears would be punished or inhibited under the proposed rule.

''It is a problematic thing,'' Barten said. ''If someone shoots a bear that's kind of white, what do you do?''

But Costello, in an interview, said ''there's no way to confuse this white bear with anything else.''

Costello said it was ''extremely shortsighted'' of the advisory committee to not want to protect the white bear. A backlash against hunting and Juneau could result if the bear were killed, he said.

''It's absolutely unique,'' Costello said.

The board is also expected to consider a ban on hunting and trapping of wolves on Douglas Island until the state can manage for a sustainable population there.

The board also will consider two proposals designed to stop waterfowl hunters from shooting at houses near the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge. As many as 800 people hunt in the nearly 6-square-mile refuge each year, Barten said.

One proposal would close an unspecified area near houses to hunting. Another would require hunters in the Mendenhall Wetlands to register annually for free with the Fish and Game department, so they can be told about safety and consideration for homeowners.

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