Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/20/1995 03:38 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 SRES - 2/20/95                                                                
              SB  81 CLASSIFYING WOLF AS PREDATOR                             
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to             
 order at 3:38 p.m. and announced SB 81 to be up for consideration.            
 SENATOR SHARP, prime sponsor, said there are several reasons to               
 reinstate a bounty on wolves.  He pointed out that there were no              
 longer general open seasons on caribou and moose and in the 1960's            
 there used to be 160 day seasons.  He thought the reason was that             
 the state inherited large, healthy game populations from the                  
 federal government at the time of statehood.  Then it was state               
 policy to vigorously manage predators by aerial hunting and a                 
 severe poisoning program.  The last four governors have ignored               
 recommendations from the ADF&G calling for intensive predator                 
 control actions in many areas of the state where the ungulate                 
 population declined to critical levels.  These recommendations were           
 based on many scientific studies and game surveys.                            
 Last year, Senator Sharp noted, this Legislature passed intensive             
 game management mandate legislation.  At its December 1, 1994                 
 meeting the Board of Game asked ADF&G to review the Unit 13 moose             
 situation, a big concern with the public.  ADF&G said that moose              
 populations were down 25% - 30% and continuing down.  Moose calf              
 and 15 month yearlings population was at an all time low level                
 which would cause an additional deterioration of moose numbers.               
 There was a higher than average wolf population with strong                   
 indications of a much lower level of wolf harvest by trappers or              
 hunters, and continued high levels of grizzly bear population in              
 Unit 13.  ADF&G still chooses not to recommend intensive                      
 management, so Senator Sharp stated, there would be continued                 
 reduction of seasons and management of the people and not the                 
 SENATOR SHARP said statistics from ADF&G indicated 87.5% of all               
 moose are harvested by predators - bears and wolves.  10% die from            
 natural causes and 2.5% are harvested by people.  It doesn't make             
 sense to manage the 2.5%. SENATOR SHARP said his constituents want            
 the state budget cut when the state workers aren't doing their job.           
 He would like ADF&G to refocus on managing resources, not people.             
 He said this could be accomplished within the ADF&G budget.                   
 SENATOR SHARP said careful review of this bill would reveal that it           
 is also Alaska hire legislation.                                              
 Number 216                                                                    
 SENATOR HALFORD asked if he had predation statistics for whether              
 bears or wolves are the major harvester of the prey.  SENATOR SHARP           
 said that bears in Unit 13 are more responsible for harvesting                
 moose calves, in Unit 20 he didn't recall, in Unit 20 A wolves are            
 the primary problem.                                                          
 SENATOR HALFORD asked which would do the most good, to reclassify             
 the wolf or to create a bounty.                                               
 SENATOR SHARP answered that reclassifying the wolf as a predator              
 and liberalizing most methods and means, except poison, was best.             
 Number 283                                                                    
 SENATOR HALFORD moved to adopt the CS to SB 81.  There were no                
 objections and it was so ordered.                                             
 SENATOR LINCOLN said she supported some kind of wolf control, but             
 she had a number of concerns with SB 81 which, she thought, might             
 be a reaction to recent press.  She had a problem with the wolf               
 being taken by any method other than poison.  Another issue was               
 specifying adult wolves or pups.  For instance someone could go               
 into a den and eliminate the whole den and get $400 for each pup              
 and also have the hide of the adult.  She was concerned that it               
 would cost the state $675,000 according to her calculations.                  
 Number 334                                                                    
 SENATOR SHARP responded that it would be more economically feasible           
 for people to go out and harvest wolves if there was a bounty,                
 although he wasn't set with the $400 figure.  There are variables             
 like the fluctuation in the price of fur and the cost of hunting.             
 SENATOR LINCOLN asked why we couldn't dust off the ADF&G studies we           
 had spent so much on to see how we can have humane predator                   
 control.  SENATOR SHARP said the studies were implemented by the              
 Board several times, but were not seen through to fruition.                   
 Unfortunately, politics enters into the situation and the resource            
 is not being managed effectively.  More studies will not produce              
 different results on what can happen.  There is adequate money in             
 the Department now to be rechanneled and get the job done.                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN again asked if pups in a den could be killed.                 
 SENATOR SHARP responded that that was done in the bush years ago              
 and he had no idea how practical it is, but it is legal under this            
 Number 400                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asked again if the wolves can be taken any way,               
 except by poison.  SENATOR SHARP replied that is right.  She                  
 emphasized that she supported some type of wolf control, but not              
 necessarily the methods in this bill.                                         
 SENATOR LINCOLN asked if they could use a snare without having it             
 specific to wolves.  SENATOR SHARP said experienced trappers have             
 testified to the Department of Public Safety that snares are the              
 most effective, humane way to take wolves.  However, you have to              
 expect by-catch, because of the changing snow conditions.                     
 WAYNE REGELIN, Acting Director, Division of Wildlife, said they               
 believe this bill would provide few, if any positive, benefits to             
 our wildlife resources, but it could provide several significant              
 negative results.  In general, bounties do not target specific                
 areas where wolf populations need to be reduced.  It is likely the            
 increased harvest would happen in areas where wolves are already at           
 appropriate levels or even lower than they would like, because                
 there's better access for hunters and trappers in these areas.                
 Statewide bounties have been eliminated as a game management tool             
 in all states, MR. REGELIN said, because they are unpopular with              
 the public and they are very costly.                                          
 Specifically, SB 81 would eliminate all regulations governing                 
 wolves.  Allowing all other methods and means, except poison, would           
 complicate enforcement methods for other species, because every               
 violator they catch would be hunting wolves.  It would allow                  
 ownership of wolves for breeders and exhibitors.  He also thought             
 it would result in the listing of wolves under the Endangered                 
 Species Act (ESA).  This is because the ESA specifically says that            
 animals may be listed due to inadequacy of existing regulatory                
 mechanisms.  Listing of the wolves would also have a major impact             
 on logging.  The federal government would very likely close federal           
 lands to the taking of wolves resulting in a lot less wolf harvest            
 and ultimately more restrictions on moose and caribou harvest.                
 MR. REGELIN estimated that approximately $600,000 would be spent              
 before an extra wolf would be killed, because you pay the bounty on           
 all the wolves, not just the ones that are in excess of the                   
 MR. REGELIN stated the Department thinks wolves should be managed             
 in a manner similar to other wildlife.  The current classification            
 of wolves as a big game animal and a fur bearer is appropriate.               
 They deserve the same respect in management as other species.  SB
 81 would be bad wildlife policy and there would be tremendous                 
 public opposition.                                                            
 Number 496                                                                    
 MR. REGELIN said he has done a thorough analysis of all the seasons           
 and bag limits since 1965 at 10 year intervals.  In the vast                  
 majority of the state seasons are longer or the same length and               
 have a higher bag limit.  There are some exceptions that are on the           
 road system.                                                                  
 SENATOR HALFORD asked him if the high ungulate population was due             
 to the poisoning of wolves that was going on before statehood.  MR.           
 REGELIN said that was the major reason for it.                                
 MR. REGELIN commented that in Unit 13 there is a lot of effort from           
 Anchorage and Fairbanks.  There is a problem there and they are               
 trying to solve it.  They will recommend maintaining the moose                
 season with antler restrictions.  The Board took significant action           
 in January where they took off the $25 grizzly tag fee to increase            
 the take of bears to manage that area primarily for moose and                 
 caribou.  However, they do want to maintain a viable population of            
 bears there.                                                                  
 SENATOR HALFORD said he thought the bill was not drafted giving               
 ADF&G enough leeway to make an effective predator control program.            
 He would like to see the bill work.  He commented on the video that           
 went around the country and asked if the man who shot the wolf pup            
 still had a job.  MR. REGELIN said he still has a job and that he             
 is one of the most professional biologists they have.  He doesn't             
 know of any other mistakes he has made and supports him as much as            
 he can.                                                                       
 SENATOR HALFORD, referring to CSSB 81 (Res), line 7, said if you              
 insert "legal for predators or other unclassified game" instead of            
 "other than poison", you would still have your regulatory                     
 authority, but you could set up big game type protections.                    
 TAPE 95-10, SIDE B                                                            
 SENATOR HALFORD continued saying that he would delete (c) so wolves           
 could be treated as any other predator.  Paying a bounty in all               
 areas of the state has problems also, but if the law said a bounty            
 would be paid for each wolf taken in a predator reduction area as             
 designated by the Board of Game, you would have the control to                
 avoid any problems with eliminating wolves in areas where they are            
 close to being threatened.                                                    
 MR. REGELIN said he had analyzed the problem of targeting a bounty            
 to specific areas and he thought in reality every wolf killed in              
 Alaska would be reported to be killed in whatever areas had                   
 bounties.  He thought the best thing was to work with the local               
 trappers and trapper incentive programs, by trying to get them to             
 trap more intensively.  SENATOR HALFORD said you just have the                
 bounties paid in the areas where the harvest takes place.  There              
 wouldn't be a bounty office in Southeast Alaska.  MR. REGELIN said            
 throughout the entire road system, people would move the wolves               
 around for $400.                                                              
 Number 546                                                                    
 SENATOR SHARP added he strongly favored ADF&G contracting with                
 groups that have expertise in local areas where there are problems.           
 SENATOR HOFFMAN asked why on line 6 is the wolf listed as "not a              
 fur bearing animal."  SENATOR SHARP responded that if it was listed           
 as fur bearing, it would be subject to regulated seasons, etc.  It            
 would be the same situation as declaring it a game animal.                    
 MR. REGELIN informed the Committee that the wolf season is set to             
 be when the fur is prime, about the first of November through the             
 end of March, and there is no limit.                                          
 SENATOR LINCOLN said she hoped to work on this bill in a                      
 subcommittee.  She said she might not disagree with Senator Sharp's           
 comments on not implementing the studies ADF&G has paid millions of           
 dollars for.  Addressing Mr. Regelin, she said she hoped he would             
 have had some suggestions on how to make this bill better and asked           
 him to be prepared to tell them what is workable since they do have           
 all those studies.  MR. REGELIN said he would be happy to work with           
 her and with a subcommittee on something called trapper incentives.           
 He reiterated that using the word "bounty" would be detrimental to            
 the state nation wide.                                                        
 In a dialogue with SENATOR HALFORD, MR. REGELIN said that Texas               
 still has a bounty on shrub wolves and coyotes by county.  Most               
 counties don't do it anymore; nothing is state-wide.  He said most            
 counties don't budget for it and because they end up getting                  
 coyotes from all over the state.  A Predator Control Program run by           
 the Department of Agriculture can use planes which is the only way            
 aerial hunting can legally be used.  The Federal Airborne Hunting             
 Act doesn't apply to state authorized programs.  He said the recent           
 rabies outbreak in Texas was attempting to be solved with bait                
 treated with a rabies inhibitor.  He didn't know how that was                 
 SENATOR LEMAN announced that SB 81 would go into a subcommittee               
 consisting of Senator Halford as Chairman, Senator Lincoln and                
 Senator Frank.                                                                

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