Alaska court rules bison can roam freely on Kodiak

  • Monday, December 29, 2014 12:29am
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The buffalo can roam freely again on Kodiak Island.

The state Board of Game had previously decided that free-ranging bison were considered “feral” when the animals strayed from state or federal lands.

Then in 2007 the board authorized a hunt of escaped bison on Kodiak.

But the late rancher Charles Dorman, who raised bison that were prone to roam on Kodiak Island, sued to stop the hunt. Dorman originally lost, but the state Supreme Court overturned a lower-court ruling against him Friday.

The court said the board was wrong when it deemed the bison feral.

Bison ranching on Kodiak is a relatively recent development in the centuries-long history of livestock rearing on the island. Russians brought the first cattle to Kodiak in the late 1700s, but ranchers lost dozens each year to the island’s hungry, gargantuan bears.

Then in the 1990s, the ranchers turned to bison as an alternative, according to Larry Van Daele, a regional supervisor for the state Department of Fish and Game.

There was one problem: “Bison are not just bear-resistant, they’re fence-resistant,” Van Daele said.

Dorman’s state grazing leases included tidal flats, which couldn’t be fenced. Sometimes as many as 150 of the bison would roam off the lease — allegedly destroying wetlands, and stoking fears that they could wander onto a nearby wildlife refuge or infect deer with communicable diseases.

Then the proposal came along to allow the public to hunt the “feral, free ranging bison.”

After “lengthy deliberations,” according to the Supreme Court decision, the board changed a state rule so that any bison wandering off a state or federal grazing lease was deemed feral. It gave the two Kodiak bison ranchers a two-year grace period to retrieve their animals.

When the Department of Fish and Game prepared to authorize the hunt in early 2010, Dorman filed suit.

But the lower court hadn’t properly considered that it was clear the bison to be hunted belonged to ranchers, the Supreme Court said.

The rancher Charles Dorman died five months ago at age 78.

“It’s sort of bittersweet,” said Tom Meacham, Dorman’s attorney. “He is not around to savor the victory.”

More in News

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Leaves fall at the Kenai Senior Center on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Senior Center makes plans for $715,000 endowment

The money comes from the Tamara Diane Cone Testamentary Trust

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
On Thursday morning at what police described as an active crime scene, JPD Officer Austin Thomas and Officer Taylor Davis walk the fielded area which was blocked off by crime scene tape. Multiple tents and a police vehicle sat in the field where the tape surrounded, another police vehicle sat in a dirt parking area.
No arrests made as Juneau death investigation continues

Shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday that a woman’s body was found

Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

About 21,000 people living along a 1,000-mile stretch of Alaska’s western coast were affected by the storm

Most Read