For Immediate Release, August 11, 2014
Contact: Kiersten Lippmann, (907) 793-8691
Refuge Urged to Protect Alaska's Rare Kenai Bears From Rampant Overhunting
Petition Seeks Sport Hunting Ban on Refuge After
Hunters Wipe Out 25 Percent of Bears in 18 Months
ANCHORAGE— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition today, urging the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to enact a permanent ban on sport hunting of brown bears on refuge lands. Over the past 18 months, after the state of Alaska loosened regulations, Kenai Peninsula bears have been killed at an unprecedented rate. Of the roughly 600 bears on the peninsula, some 100 were killed in 2013 and another 52 were killed by hunters this spring, most at bait stations.
“Kenai’s bears have taken a beating ever since Alaska’s game commission loosened hunting rules. If the killing continues at this pace, these bears — which are isolated and genetically unique — could face the real possibility of disappearing from our public lands,” said Kiersten Lippmann, a biologist with the Center’s Alaska office. “That’s why we need science, not politics, to drive management. Unfortunately politicians want to manage Alaska’s wilderness as a giant moose farm, bereft of the bears, wolves, lynx, wolverine and other predators that make Alaska such a wild place.”
Today’s petition requests that the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge begin a process of official rulemaking, resulting in a permanent ban on brown bear hunting on the refuge. The refuge has already taken steps toward protecting brown bears on its lands with a ban on brown bear baiting. In fall 2013, the refuge imposed an emergency halt to brown bear hunting as the death toll neared 100 bears. This year, with the fall hunting season set to begin Sept. 1, could be just as deadly for the bears.
“The vast majority of Alaskans, and visitors to Alaska, enjoy viewing and photographing bears, not shooting them,” said Lippmann. “The Board of Game catered to the whims of a few when they enacted a policy designed to kill off as many of these iconic bears as possible.”
Kenai Peninsula brown bears are genetically unique and physically isolated, making them more vulnerable to decline. Analysis shows that if bears continue to be killed at the rate they were in 2013, the Kenai brown bear has a 33 percent chance of going extinct on federal lands within 25 years.
“Kenai brown bears are running out of time,” said Lippmann. “We fully support the refuge in protecting bears on its lands by immediately and permanently banning sport hunting.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.