Commissioner turns down challenge of predator control rules

FAIRBANKS (AP) — Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game commissioner has rejected calls from petitioners critical of the state’s predator control rules to change the hunting program.

About 150 Alaska residents, including several former Board of Game members and former commissioner Frank Rue, signed a petition in August that was sent to Gov. Bill Walker. They sought to have Walker replace lethal predator control with nonlethal methods and advocated for a 5-mile buffer zone to protect wolves and bears around national parks and national wildlife refuges, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten issued a response to the petition Thursday, saying he wouldn’t adopt the suggestions for Alaska’s intensive management program. The program, put in place by a legislative mandate, involves the killing of bears and wolves to protect deer, moose and caribou populations that are important sources of food for Alaskans.

Cotten disputed the petition’s claims that the program is “unscientific, unnecessary, ineffective, costly, unethical, inhumane, and controversial.”

“The predation control programs in place are supported by scientific evidence and biologists are always gathering more. If evidence shows a program ineffective, department biologists are the first to recommend ceasing it,” Cotten said.

Creating buffer zones to protect wolves and bears from hunting would hamper predator control efforts because federal conservation areas already cover a large percentage of Alaska, Cotten said. He also added that moving or sterilizing wolves instead of killing them would be ineffective and expensive.

Lead petition signatory Rick Steiner said the group is “exceptionally disappointed” with Cotten’s decision.

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