The rationale behind this unusual move is a severe drop in moose and caribou calf survival in Unit 13 due to predation by bears. The Fish and Game Commission hopes that an increased harvest of grizzlies will give the moose and caribou some relief.
The revised Unit 13 regulations actually went into effect in 2003, with little notice by the hunting community. Why? Perhaps because the bears in Unit 13 are inland browns, or grizzly bears, and thus are smaller than coastal bears. The bears here also have larger home ranges, so they can be more difficult to hunt. Also, hunting bears outside the traditional spring and summer seasons can mean taking home a rubbed, ratty-looking hide.
The upshot is, despite the relaxed regulations and harvest restrictions, the bear harvest in Unit 13 actually declined last year. The average harvest in Unit 13 is usually 141 bears, says Alaska Fish and Game Officer Bruce Bartley, but in 2003 only 110 were taken. But don't jump to the wrong conclusion, he warns. The reduced bear harvest appears to have more to do with the falling number of caribou and moose hunters drawn to Unit 13 than anything else. In the mid-1990s upwards of 6,000 hunters chased moose in Unit 13, he says. Last year, only 3,400 did so. Previously, it was moose and caribou hunters who took most of the bears as an incidental harvest.
So, how many bears does Alaska Fish and Game want to harvest from this unit? According to Bartley, they do not have a precise number in mind; instead,........(continued)