Letting predators be predators in Alaskan preserves

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The National Park Service (NPS) just amended its regulations for sport hunting and trapping on roughly 2 million-acres of national preserves in Alaska.

The new rule gives some breathing (and breeding) room to wolves and bears, in particular, the taking of which previously was governed by state law. Now forbidden is baiting bears or tracking them with dogs; using artificial light to hunt at bears’ den sites; hunting wolves and coyotes during denning season; using a motorboat to hunt caribou; or taking swimming caribou.

At its core, the former hunting rules were at odds with the NPS mandate. In all of its 400-plus units, the NPS is compelled by the Organic Act of 1916 “….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The now-banned hunting practices were intended to make it easier to eliminate animals that prey on caribou–the preferred meal of many humans. The new rule does something to re-level that playing field.

Image of Alaskan wolf resting outside den, courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.