Brown Bears in Trouble on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
On October 26, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was forced to implement an emergency closure of brown bear hunting at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaskan peninsula.
FWS was alarmed at the high number of bears harvested throughout 2013 as a result of a “no limit” policy implemented by the Alaska Board of Game and Fish in May. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a press release explaining the decision. The latest figures show that at least 66 bears have been killed so far in 2013 – roughly 10 percent of the peninsula’s population – well above what is considered sustainable. State and federal wildlife biologists consider 4-6 percent the high end of the percentage of bears that can be killed before the population is at risk.
Officials are also concerned that the number of bears harvested could be low due to delays in reporting. Another added concern is that of the 66 confirmed dead in 2013, 22 were female. The high number of lost females could be detrimental to the entire population. Brown bears are slow to reproduce, so keeping more females alive is important for the sustainability of the population.