Story last updated at 1:22 p.m. Thursday, November 14, 2002

White bear free to roam
The state Board of Game last week unanimously voted to permanently protect white-colored black bears from hunting in the Juneau area.

Juneau resident Pat Costello photographed one of the rare bears in August. The photos were publicized on his Web site, printed in Alaska papers, and became the subject of worldwide media coverage.

The bear also attracted hundreds of e-mail messages in support of its protection and a petition of 110 Juneau residents to let it be hunted.

Board member Joel Bennett said he viewed the white bear as a rare resource, worthy of protection.

"I think it's a special, unique resource that is widely recognized, not just in Alaska. We have precedent elsewhere in Alaska for (protecting) a white moose. It's one of those things, as well, that helps to build a bridge between consumptive users and nonconsumptive users."

Hunters, however, didn't view the issue in simple, black and white terms.

"Southeast is home to many shades and color of black bear," Juneau hunter Barry Brokken told the board Sunday. "To single out one color for protection begs the question 'why?'"

--The Juneau Empire