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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

"I know how many of you feel about the big bear"..... "I've heard grumbling here and there".... "Many of you guide in areas not slated for bear control -- at least not yet-- and maybe you are in a little bit of shock by what's going down"....."You guys know better than most just how cool the grizzly is; the big bear deserves better, we deserve better"..... "I urge you to step up and make a stand"..... "Everyone who loves bears should make a stand"..... "They are easily our most magnificent animals."----Alaska bear hunter and big-game guide Karl Braendel...................As writer Bill Sherwonit goes on to say: Karl is passionate and informed about the fact that snaring of Griz and Black Bears must be banned asap!...........This blogger agrees with carnivore advocates George Wuerthner and Brooks Fahy who do not believe in any form of Carnivore hunting,,,,,And if there is going to be hunts of wolves, pumas and bears, the kills must happen instantly and cleanly, not through chaining a fellow creature to a tree to suffer for hours and even days on end before being dispatched.......The last two Govenor's of Alaska and the Alaska Board of Game have continually pushed the envelope further and further in their quest to destroy larger and larger numbers of Wolves and Bears(in the name of better prey hunting for humans)............When will the folks up North put their foot down and say NO MORE?

Uneasy about new Alaska bear snaring? Time to speak up.

Bill Sherwonit

In an eloquent commentary that he wrote for the Anchorage Daily News
("Predator Control Demeans Us All," Feb. 4), bear hunter and big-game
hunting guide Karl Braendel both sang the praises of the "mighty
grizzly," that "wilderness 'boss of bosses,'" and bemoaned the fact
that his peers in the guiding industry have largely remained silent
since the state of Alaska expanded its predator-control policies to
include the snaring and shooting of grizzly bears.

In a direct appeal to those peers, Braendel wrote, "I know how many of
you feel about the big bear. I've heard grumbling here and there. Many
of you guide in areas not slated for bear control -- at least not yet
-- and maybe you are in a little bit of shock by what's going down.
You guys know better than most just how cool the grizzly is; the big
bear deserves better, we deserve better. I urge you to step up and
make a stand. Everyone who loves bears should make a stand. They are
easily our most magnificent animals."

griz snared to tree

Some might take issue with that last comment, since magnificence, like
beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. But it seems to me that
anyone who holds even the slightest amount of respect for "the big
bear" would oppose the brutally inhumane tack that the Board of Game
(BOG) and Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) are now taking to
"control" grizzly numbers in parts of Alaska. To date it's only been
an "experimental" program in Unit 16, across Cook Inlet from
Anchorage. But at its March meeting in Fairbanks, the BOG will decide
whether to expand the snaring and killing of both grizzly and black
bears to other parts of the state. (Though it doesn't seem to have
gained much notice, the BOG has already approved plans to conduct a
brown and black bear snaring effort in Unit 19D, the McGrath area,
beginning June 30.)

Because I don't run in those circles, I can't say what buzz, if any,
Braendel's commentary has generated within the big-game guiding
community (he's told me he hasn't heard much from other guides). But I
do know that others have independently expressed their opposition to
snaring. Terry Holliday, president of Safari Club International's
Alaska chapter, told the L.A. Times, "I personally disagree with the
snaring of the bear.

"If you want a lower bear population, they [state wildlife officials]
can do it in different ways. It's not humane. You shoot something, you
kill it. If it's properly done, it's bang, and it's over, with the
animal not suffering. But when you go out and you start snaring
animals and whoever's doing it, say, the weather's bad and you can't
get back for several days, here's a bear sitting there in a snare with
a bucket on its foot."

And in written comments made to the BOG, Robert Fithian, a master
guide and executive director of the Alaska Professional Hunters
Association, expressed his group's concerns that a proposed expansion
of an existing predator-control program in Unit 19A (within the
Kuskokwim River drainage) would add "brown bears of any age class
[and] the snaring of brown bears."

Because it's a more charismatic animal and greater trophy, the
inclusion of grizzlies in the bear-snaring effort has upped the ante,
increased the opposition to the snaring and killing of bears, but I
and many other Alaskans oppose the snaring of any bear, whether black
or brown (grizzlies and brown bears of course being the same species).
Like Braendel, I've been surprised that Alaskans haven't been more
upset by the state's latest and most extreme policy to kill off wolves
and bears.

 It should be emphasized that never in our state's history
has the BOG allowed snaring to capture and kill bears. One reason for
the lack of public outcry may be the media's inattention. Though I've
written a few pieces about the snaring of black bears and, more
recently, brown bears in that Unit 16 experiment, Alaska's media only
began to pay attention this winter, when a bunch of wildlife
scientists (nearly 80 of them, all with Alaska connections) protested
the practice -- and were joined in that protest by former Gov. Tony

I applaud both Knowles and biologist John Schoen for leading the
current charge, along with a core group of wildlife activists. And
now, at least some voices from the big-game guiding industry and the
Alaska Native community as well. I was heartily encouraged to see a
letter opposing bear snaring from Roy and Charlene Huhndorf, leaders
in the Native community and, like Braendel, life-long Alaskans.
"We believe snaring is cruel and inhumane," the Huhndorfs wrote,
"causing hours and sometimes days of agony for the animal and should
not be used by the state as a wildlife management tool. It is
primitive and uncivilized. . . .

 The cruel destruction of Alaska's
predator population does not have a place in the 21st century."
Another Alaska Native who has taken a strong stand is Maxine Franklin,
who bravely went before the BOG at its January meeting (not an easy
thing to do for those who present different perspectives than the
narrow-minded board). A friend of mine with Athabascan and Yupik
roots, Franklin has shared with me some writings about her Athabascan
grandfather, Peter Matthews, and the great respect he showed to bears
when, on rare occasions, he hunted the animal.

 Besides using adeadfall trap that would kill the bear quickly -- a necessary thing to
do, to limit the animal's suffering -- Matthews would stage a funeral
for the bear, to honor his or her spirit. (Franklin notes that she
never met her grandfather, but learned these stories from her mother,
Isabelle Pete, who at Maxine's insistence told them over and over.)
Now an elder herself, Franklin says, "I believe we're related to the
other animals. . . . We can develop a mature attitude toward our
relations. Sometimes we need to take their lives to continue living,
but restraint should be the rule. They of course deserve to be treated
well, in life and death. Some things should not be done."
Snaring, for example.

Some folks, of course, prefer scientific analysis to indigenous
beliefs. So it's worthwhile adding that science too has found
overwhelming evidence that we humans are "related to the other
animals." The perspective is slightly different, but that truth
remains. And occasionally even scientists will agree that "some things
should not be done."

In January I wrote a story for the Anchorage Press, "Alaska's newest
wildlife experiment: Snaring and shooting brown bears." In working on
that essay, I spoke to several biologists who decried the snaring of
bears, for both scientific and ethical reasons. Larry Aumiller,
long-time manager at the McNeil River brown bear sanctuary, recalled,
"I helped snare bears in the 1970s [for radio-tracking] and it
produced images that I still find in my dreams. When snared, brown
bears go absolutely crazy with fear and tear up everything within

Researchers, another biologist has informed me, go to great lengths to
limit the suffering of bears captured in such a way. But what about
people who only snare bears to kill them? How much care do they take?
Another biologist, who asked to remain anonymous, added, "Any snaring
is cruel. Lethal snaring (neck snares say, or conibears, or drowning
sets) are at least cruel for a shorter time until the animal dies
(sometimes within minutes). The foot snaring means that a wild animal,
used to roaming for hundreds of miles, is held against its will for
hours at a time by a metal band like a handcuff. The band can and will
abrade the tissue the more the animal fights. Imagine you are suddenly
handcuffed by one wrist to a tree, possibly in a standing position,
and never in your life have you ever been restrained. The
psychological shock must be intense."

So, what we have here are Alaskans representing many different
backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems, all agreeing that bear
snaring is cruel and inhumane. And, adding the perspectives of
respected biologists, unscientific to boot.

As I've written elsewhere, Alaska's predator-control system has been
out of control for years and is only getting worse. Many of those
who've battled the state's increasingly extreme policies and methods
have been worn down or grown cynical or they worry that Alaskans,
generally, have grown weary of this battle. What's the point, after
all, when the state goes ahead and does what it wants?
The point, in part, is that it's important to bear witness, even if
change comes slowly (or at the present, not at all). Over the past
nine years (since Frank Murkowski became governor, to be succeeded by
Sarah Palin and now Sean Parnell), the BOG has taken a step-by-step
approach to its predator control programs, as if to see how far it can
go in its war against wolves and bears -- and what else can you call
it, when the aim is to remove ever-larger numbers of predators from
Alaska's wildlands in order to benefit human hunters? If there is no
protest, no push back, things will only get worse. They are getting

What can Alaskans do? For one thing, a petition is circulating, asking
the BOG to end bear snaring. Go online and sign it. Write letters to
the editor. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner would be a good target,
since the BOG meets in Fairbanks in early March. Attend the meeting if
you can, speak out in defense of bears. Let the governor know you're
disappointed, especially if you voted for him.

As Karl Braendel wrote, "There's still time to affect the outcome."
But everyone opposed to the cruelty of bear snaring needs to speak
out, not simply the usual suspects. It's time to say, "Enough is
enough, this has to stop."It's time to raise a little hell.

Bill Sherwonit has contributed essays and articles to a wide variety
of publications (both traditional and online) and is the author of 13
books, most recently Changing Paths: Travels and Meditations in
Alaska's Arctic Wilderness and Chugach State Park: Alaska's Accessible
Wilderness, the latter a collaboration with photographer Carl
Battreall. He has closely followed and written about Alaska's wildlife
politics since the mid-1980s.

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