Saturday, February 21, 2009

Time for a Regulation Change

It gripes me to have to write this article.It would be easy for me to sit quietly and do nothing. However, I have a lot of grand kids who need someone to step up the plate and take on the hunting problems we face.
I will be 66 soon and would like nothing more than to take it easy and let someone else do the fighting. I have to live with myself, so I must stand up for what I believe is right.
I grew up in a “predator control” environment.
My Dad was a Government Predator Control Officer all of his life.He was in charge of protecting livestock and the deer herds in Northern California.
During his entire career, there were an abundance of deer, fox, rabbits, and all of the “ground nesting” birds. Pheasants and quail were everywhere.Since his death in the early 70’s, the predators have taken over the state.
The mountain lion has been protected since 1972. Now the deer herds are few and far between. The mountain lion has lost all fear of humans and have attacked and killed several people. They have grown to dangerous numbers.
The coyotes have all but wiped out the small game and have moved into urban areas and killed many pets along with attacking small children. Even the red and grey fox are now listed on the endangered species. They were numerous and healthy a few years ago.
I have studied the predator issue since I first came to Alaska in 1969.
I was also on the Advisory Committee in the Interior during the mid 80's.I'm not some "johnnie-come-lately" that fell off of the last turnip truck that came through town.
I shared that information with you so you would understand where I am coming from, and maybe help you to know where I stand. Most importantly, that I’m not some blood-thirsty kook that wants all predators destroyed. I absolutely do not support that!I do, however, have enough common sense to see the present problems we face.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we have an over abundance of bears on the Kenai Peninsula. It also doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that our moose population is in big trouble. It also is widely known that all of us have a serious problem with rogue bears that live in our town during the summer and fall.It seems that they have lost their “fear” or “respect” of humans.
There are several reasons for their bold-pushy attitudes.
The first of which they haven’t been hunted enough to know to stay away from people. Bears in the wilderness setting, will be seen running from people a quarter of a mile away, because they fear the hunters.These urban bears have more of a desire to get your pets and outside freezers, than they have any fear of you.
I know the idea of some lazy folks who won’t keep their garbage put up.They are scolded regularly, and should be.It only takes one lazy person to train the bears to hit the garbage cans. I don’t appreciate anyone who litters or fails to keep their yards free of garbage. We will always have those pigs around.
Even with those kinds of people around, we still have the bears with “no fear” of people.We have always had those negligent people, but we now have too many urban bears coming around to keep them company.
How many more people have to be mauled, and how much more property has to be destroyed by these bears before some one steps in and reduces their numbers?
Several cow moose have their calves in my yard each year. The cows believe it is safer in my yard than out in the wilderness area.
Last spring a cow had her twins in my neighbor’s yard. That very day a brown bear was in the yard trying to get the calves. The Karelian Bear dog next door was between the calves and the bear for hours, but failed to save them. A couple of days later the cow and one calf were destroyed by the bear.
The remaining little calf stayed in the neighborhood all summer. I haven’t seen her lately.
I was told by the local Biologist that most of the moose killed by hunters last year were the “spike-fork” bulls.
The bears kill most of the calves in the first week of birth. The road and winter kills a lot of them. It is no wonder why we have so few moose left.I wonder how the DF&G think they can manage our moose population with all of the pressure on the yearlings.
The DF&G allow harvesting of the spike-fork bulls in most areas. They then protect the rest of the bulls up to antlers that are 50 inches wide, or three or four brow tines depending on what zone it is in.
We see our moose herd disappearing because we don’t protect the young bull moose.
Everywhere else the young deer, elk are protected. It makes for more medium to large animals in the second through fourth years.
I have proposed that the DF&G protect the bull moose up to antlers 36 inches wide, and allow hunters to harvest everything above.I believe it would insure that more larger bulls will be left for breeding and hunting.
It worked fine in the Interior during the 1980's.
It is ten times easier to judge a 36 inch bull than a 50 inch bull.
Many hunters fail to judge the 50 inch bull every year and mistakenly shoot them. If they turn in the sub-size bull, they pay the fine and lose moose hunting privileges for a year. Many hunters can’t afford to pay the fine, so they leave the meat to spoil in the field.These hunters are not law-breakers by nature. They are honest folks who are trying to put the winters meat in the freezer, while trying to make a very difficult call. A judgement call that few professionals can make correctly.
Sure, we all should be sure not to make that mistake. I let many large bulls walk free each year because I still can’t make the call even after 40 years of moose hunting.
It doesn't make sense to keep a regulation that fails to restore the bull to cow ratio, while causing honest hunters to make honest mistakes.
It will take more than just changing the antler restriction. It will take a vigorous predator control of bears and wolves.
Most of the lower Kenai Peninsula wolf population is suffering from lice and loss of hair. They, in their sickened condition, have to kill more moose to survive.
I have heard all of the arguments about harvesting the spike-fork bulls.They contend that if the genetics of the spike-fork is eliminated, then the first year bulls will have larger “paddle horns”.
That has never been proven, and never will. The young bulls are rarely paddle horns their first year. I was told that the spike-fork program has been in operation since 1985. It has not worked yet.
Each year the yearlings are still “spike-fork”, with only a fraction of the yearlings ever growing the antlers to the paddle-horn size in their first year.It would be nice if the spike-fork genetics could be changed to the paddle-horn, but the idea simply is not practical and has produced nothing except a decline of the bull population.
Each year the moose population keeps declining. You just can’t grow a healthy moose herd if most of the harvested bulls are yearlings.
Once again, the answers are not that difficult.
1. Reduce the predators dramatically.( not just the 10 productive sows this year)
2. Protect the yearlings up to antlers 36 inches wide, and harvest those above.
3. Stop regulating the predator population by the “Defense Of Life and Property” clause.
4. Stop trying to regulate the moose herds by restricting hunting and access.
These ideas are not new. I believe programs that don’t work should be eliminated. New ideas should be tried, especially when these ideas have worked for years in other states.
We don’t have the option any longer of doing nothing.
George “Bubba” Hunt