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Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt

Brown Bear in Katmai Preserve; Daniel Zatz photographer.

Brown Bear in Katmai Preserve; Daniel Zatz photographer.

The Katmai bear video has been one of the most-viewed posts on National Parks Traveler, being viewed more than 4,000 times in less than a week. It has generated anguish, anger, and controversy. Against this backdrop, Alaska Regional Director Marcia Blaszak has taken a moment to explain the National Park Service's viewpoint of how to manage the bear hunt in Katmai National Preserve. - The editors

Dear National Park Friend:

In the past week, we have received and read a significant number of comments regarding bear hunting in Katmai National Preserve. While I do not expect to change views on this matter, in the next few paragraphs I do hope to explain the position of the National Park Service, including some of the research which guides us and the limits to federal action.

Katmai National Preserve was established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. It mandated, in Section 202, that this area be managed for “high concentrations of brown/grizzly bears.” Section 203 provides that sport hunting in national preserves shall be permitted. Sport hunting is regulated by the State of Alaska.

Research by state and federal biologists show that the density of bears in the preserve is high. This August, three survey flights over the preserve produced an average count of 279 bears, with a high of 329 in one instance. Because you never see every bear, this translates into an estimated population of about 581 bears in the preserve, or more than one bear for every square mile. A similar count in August 2006 showed an estimated preserve population of 331 bears and an average count during three flights of 159 bears. Researchers have also seen a high proportion of single bears, another fact reflective of a healthy, high density population.

Hunting takes place the fall of odd-numbered years and in the spring of even-numbered years. During the last open fall-spring hunt, 35 bears were taken. This translates to an annual harvest rate of no more than 5 percent, considered by biologists to be conservative harvest.

The bear population in the preserve (and in the neighboring national park and state lands) is mobile and individual bears move from areas where hunting is legal to areas where hunting is prohibited. Food supply is among the factors in this movement. As a result of this movement over many miles and often among jurisdictions they may also move from where they are relatively easily seen by bear-viewing visitors or biologists to areas where they are less likely to be seen. This means counts will necessarily be approximations, and that observations at different times of the year and in different locations will result in varying data. Our management, and that of the state Department of Fish and Game, takes mobility, variations in food supply and counting techniques into account by looking at population numbers over a large area and over time and not at the numbers of bears in a particular location.

The seasons, harvest limits and other regulations regarding the hunt are established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Game, a group appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. These regulations define “ethical” in a regulatory sense, and it is those rules which we and the State of Alaska enforce.

Alaskans and others may talk to their elected and appointed officials about the hunting rules they want to see on public land. When Congress last spoke on the issue, it mandated that sport hunting was legal in Alaska’s national preserves and that absent extraordinary circumstances, hunting would be managed by the State of Alaska.

Some commenters also described their views that bears in the preserve are used to seeing people through the summer, including fishermen and bear viewers. It is true that bear viewing has grown as an activity over the last several years. Bears have also been the targets of hunters on the Alaska Peninsula for decades, including the period since the establishment of the national preserve in 1980. Our experience with bears indicates that there is significant variation in the tolerance level which bears have of humans, regardless of the activity in which people are engaged.

The National Park Service will continue to closely monitor the population of bears in Katmai, as well as scrutinize harvest levels and other visitor activities. We appreciate your concern for the park and its resources and welcome your continued participation in the public process.

Marcia Blaszak
NPS Alaska Regional Director

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Blaszak's response is pure bureaucratic agency speak. It reminds me of the form letter I get back from my Congressman after writing him about nerve gas leaks and above ground bomb tests.

"We appreciate your concern for the park and its resources and welcome your continued participation in the public process."

These are the words of a person secure in their permanent civil service status with a fat & happy government retirement package safely on the horizon.

These are people I would not trust to mow my lawn, much less manage a vast and complex wilderness on the edge of nowhere. She is just a small cog in a massive bureaucracy that is unnaccountable in more ways than any of us would care to contemplate. Worst of all there is very little we can do about it short of a tax revolt.

Ms. Blaszak is the impersonal and obfuscating face of a Kafkaesque nightmare of an agency that is unable or unwilling to call this hunt what it really is: a bloody slaughter.

I too would like to thank FACT for providing us that information. Mark, Thank You! finally an intellegent educated hunter Outdoorsman who no doubt hunts with ethically and morally as well as skill. I would like to hear from more hunters that understand the issue of fair chase hunting and who beleive the bear hunting on Katmai Nationa Preserve is nothing more than mindless target practice for skill-less hunters. Bear Hunter", please don't lecture us about not having great outdoor hunting skills or experience!! As aprofessional photographer I've spent many years out on the Katmai, on Kodiac and in Canada with the bears. I've had a young brown bear walk up to me lick my boot and paw at my tripod so don't lecture me or anyone else about your great hunting skills. It takes no mind or skill at all to step off a plane walk a few feet and slaughter a bear or anyother animal with a gun. Why don't you try hunting wildlife with a camera instead of standing in-between them with a 7mag or H+H 375 mag and tell me if you don't wet your pants?? The issue is unethical hunting of brown bears in the Fall on Katmai National Preserve. Bear Hunter watch the video, pay attentionand listen... "what a great shot, the bears, they just don't even care. " another hunter says wow' the bear's walking right up to us" Fact" brought up some excellnt points about the age of the animals being shot on Katmai. They're becoming younger and younger and I know a group of people who have to go out every year at the end of the hunt and deal with the orphaned cubs wow" what a job!! You see, what the Alaska BOG doesn't mention is the "water-shed" affect killing a female with cubs has on the bear population because killing one bear may lead to the death of two or three bears, which is one reason the bear numbers are dropping. I'm not calling all hunters ruthless savages, just the hunters/guides out on Katmai gunning down the bears pointblank. I've had many conversations with hunters about this issue and all are in agreement, this is not hunting in any stretch of the imagination, but ruthless slaughter of our wildlife. No doubt the big bear hunters come back home and tell everyone about their big bear hunt and how tough and dangerous it was, why tracking a huge Grizzly through miles of bush; well the video is now showing the people what's really happening on Katmai. The Park does belong to all Americans, not just Alaska based hunting guides.



Bob Jackson: Your wrong on a couple things.. the hunters didnt say

"what a great shot, the bears, they just don't even care. " another hunter says wow' the bear's walking right up to us"

It was the camera crew from Ktuu news, just watch it closer and read who it was that sent the video's.
Just remember, they will show you only the video that is justifying their cause. Dont believe everything they show you.

And in another video you can hear Megan Baldino say "it ran up the hill and I almost s*** my pants" (cant believe the editors let that one get through) but I thought these bears were so habituated a hunter could just walk right up to it?

If you think the bears are getting "habituated" then maybe we should outlaw the fishing and bear viewing in that area? Then they wouldnt be so used to people and the hunt might be more ethical in your eyes? Does one special interest group have more rights than the other because your not part of it?

Dear justanotherhunter

"it ran up the hill and I almost s*** my pants" (cant believe the editors let that one get through)

"..shit my pants..."? I was recently up in Katami and got several times within yards of bears without considering to shit my pants. These bears are basically tame! My cat is shier. If anybody shits his pants getting close to fat bears with full stomachs, they must be bloody cowards full of "angst" (meaning irrational fear, compared to rational "fear").
Concerning: "(can’t believe the editors let that one get through)". If you consider using clean and appropriate language don't start with the word "shit". I suggest instead analyzing the difference between "hunt" and "slaughter". After you might have grasped the difference consider calling yourself appropriately "justanotherbutcher" not "justanotherhunter". (No insult intended to real butchers – I love the meat you produce and your profession.)
This is not about one special group having more rights than another group. This is about the ethics of hunting and about “butchers” giving good hunters a bad rep. If individuals like you continue supporting unethical slaughter of tame bears, the repercussions will be plenty of public pressure. Granola eaters do like their teddy bears! You might consider killing semi-domesticated animals fair game, however the majority of hunters including myself can not agree with you. Killing these bears is neither in the interest of hunting nor is it sportsman like. I can understand the public outcry and don’t want to be confused with people like you. Hunters will never be butchers. Be ashamed!

Great point Ralph. Justanotherhunter" If what you say is correct about the sound track on the video then thanks for pointing that out and I stand corrected on that! even so, that changes absolutely nothing about the bear slaughter happening on Katmai National Preserve GMU 9C 703 Katmai National Park and behavior of the hunting guide outfits. You see justanotherhunter beleiving only what you want is no more fact than beleiving what is shown!! That video is not the only evidence out there for the rediculous bear slaughter you guys call sports hunting. I've persoally talked to several pilots and crew who monitored and recorded the entire first week of the hunt and all report the same thing unfair chase, slaughter horrific etc. Lets not forget that Alaska's own BOG wildlife biologist sent out to Katmai to see the first days of this hunt said the same thing.. he had no idea it was this bad out there and he was embarrassed and ashamed the Alaska Board of Fish and Game has been allowing this to happen. The Katmai bear hunt is no different than the canned hunts down in Texas where ranchers get old retired circus animals, disgarded exotic pets throw them out into a field and charge big money to allow some fat rich slob to shoot big game wow' what men!!! Like Ralf said, these are basically tame animals, again what skill it must take to shoot them. Justanotherhunter, if you sanction this kind of killing than you are definitely not a hunter and you should call yourself "justanotherkiller" The real hunters I know completely disapprove of what"s going on out on Katmai. Skillful moral hunters feel this is a disgrace to their sport!!

Thank you Gerald (PhD) and Ms. Blaszak's. Finally a clear educated representation of what everyone refers to as "the hunt" is really about. For comments made that the National Park Service is missing the point, please re-read Ms. Blaszak's statement. If you still don't understand it, please consider that YOU are missing the point. I've been growing tired reading the ignorant comments left by over emotional, undereducated, slightly ignorant writers.

Because I have not seen one comment yet written by a person who lives in the area I have to question where they are getting their information about tame bears. Let me fill you in....Katmai is large. In response to one question, "can they hunt in a less densly populated area of Katmai, to make the chase more fair?" The answer is YES, but I'm not sure how the question relates to what is being accomplished here. It was never intended to be a chase. Bears are overpopulated in many areas of Katmai, why would you use harvest control hunts in areas where they are less populated? Bears roam MANY rivers in that area. The density of bears on that river in the video is not unique even to Katmai. Back to the point. For those of you who insist on questioning the process, please limit your comments to what you actually understand. Consider that many of you have never even been to the area. Do any of you live in the bush? Do you know what the alternatives to a controlled hunt could be?

I personally could not shoot a bear and I've been close to many. I just don't know if it came to me or the bear that I would feel just taking his life for mine, knowing I was in the bears territory. I have great respect bears. We do see them in large numbers sometimes flying over and counting well over 100 bears in a 10 mile area. These are not even healthy numbers for their own survival. Have you watched a bear kill another bear? Have you seen the village public safety officer shoot a cub walking on the beach in front of a handful of kids? Or the scores of visitors that had to receive counseling after watching a bear kill another bear right in front of them at the falls (Brooks Lodge.)

It has to be managed. If you don't like to see it, I understand, neither do I. Because we don't like it, doesn't make our opinion the best judge. My husband was a big game bear guide back in the 80's and he still flies hunters to these locations to shoot bears. I no more personally agree with this than I do with the bear viewing outfits that try to prevent the hunters from shooting. We all have to respect the law, enforcers, and the science behind the decisions being made. If it infuriates you that much, educate yourself, you might find that as much as you don't like it, it actually makes more sense than your intitial emotionally charged reaction.

Lastly, I cannot put into words the distaste I have for Channel 2 News and reporter Megan Baldino. In my opionion their coverage borderlined heavily on biast reporting. The troopers didn't show up until after the news team had left, this made it difficult for them to follow up on the interference complaint, for lack of evidence, that doesn't mean it didn't happen. This video and news release has caused many problems for organizations in Alaska and I thought Channel 2 was at the very least, irresponsible. Flying out with a well known "Bear Viewing Operation" did not bode well with the public trust. Consider sending your reporters, not with the guy whose making a luxrative living off BEAR VIEWING but with an air taxi that is not partial in any way. Whether Megan Baldino personally agreed with harvesting bears in Katmai or not, she might have pretended for her audience to be an unbiast reporter. One Example: immediately following an update on the complaint against her for intentionally interfering with the bear hunt, a story aired about hunting whales (also very contested), her response was something like, "I haven't tried Mukluk yet, I'll have to do that some day", (laughter). Clearly she doesn't have a problem hunting whales. Problem is, she isn't in a position to advocate for or against anything. Megan Baldino, when at the news desk, representing Channel 2 News KTUU, is a reporter. We don't care or want to hear her personal views or side comments to her co-anchors about anything when she is reporting "the news."

Dear "Living with bears",

Let's assume for a second that we need to manage the bear population in Katmai National Park. Who should do that? Trained experts or the highest bidder?

Living with Bears. I do live in Alaska, in Fact I was born here. Where are you from. I have spent over Twenty years in the Katmai Park and Preserve. In all that time have never seen an over population of Brown Bears. Just a declining population, more so since 1999 when the hunting season was moved forward. Katmai Park was set-up in 1918 by President Teddy Rosevelt to protect the Brown Bears. The Presrve was laidout in 1981 as part of ANLCA. The way that the bear counts are done there is NO science to it. They fly a pattern and if they see ten bears they say there must be fifty. ( Using thier formula). The higher the supposed bear numbers the more they can kill. The Katmai Preserve is about 300 sq. miles. GMU 9C 703 is about 25 sq. miles. Let the hunters go to the far west end of the Preserve where the bears are not as use to being close to humans.

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