By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
With a proposal to permit the killing of brown bears over bait in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has “gone rogue.” The USFWS and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior, are way over on the dark side when it comes to the killing of charismatic wildlife by America’s trophy hunters.
A public comment period has reopened on the USFWS proposal to allow trophy hunters to lure Kenai’s brown bears to their deaths with rotting piles of pastries and donuts. This plan also attempts to overturn the ban on brown bear baiting that we and other groups are currently in federal court defending.
The USFWS proposal would also remove a requirement for federal trapping permits that prohibit the use of steel-jawed leghold traps with serrated or spiked jaws, ban the setting of traps within one mile of public roads, and require periodic trap checks to ensure that a trapped animal is not left to suffer for weeks on end.
But, in the days ahead, we have a chance to stop this terrible plan from moving forward by making voice heard through the public comments.
You would think that Kenai, as a “national wildlife refuge,” would be managed as a place where America’s native wildlife would be safe and protected, not persecuted and killed for fun and trophy parts.
The situation is still worse when you consider that bear baiting is dangerous for people as well. Bait piles can habituate bears to human scents at campgrounds, picnic areas and trails, increasing the likelihood of bear-human encounters at these sites. Who needs that kind of reckless management from a government agency?
The only people who want to see this proposal go through are trophy hunters who kill animals for souvenirs. Most Americans do not support or approve of such needless killing. Brown bears, especially, are a much beloved and a major tourist draw for Alaska. During this month’s “ Fat Bear Week,” hundreds of thousands of Americans watched online as bears in the Katmai National Park stuffed themselves the natural way before going into hibernation for winter. More than 600,000 enthralled fans voted for their favorite chunky bruin (and congratulations to 747 on your win!). Needless to say, rotting donuts were not on the menu.
When the USFWS first proposed this rule last June, at about the same time that the agency finalized another terrible rule authorizing some of the cruelest killing practices known to humankind on Alaska’s federal lands, more than 30,000 of you wrote to voice your opposition.
With a new comment period, we have another opportunity to make sure that this agency-gone-rogue hears from many more Americans about the kind of management they want for federally owned lands that are home to charismatic wildlife species. Please let the USFWS know where you stand on this issue before the comment period closes on November 9 and do spread the word among your friends.
The USFWS has also scheduled virtual public hearings on the proposed rule for October 26 at 4:00 pm Alaska Daylight Time (8:00 pm EST), October 27 at 4:00 pm Alaska Daylight Time (8:00 pm EST) and October 28 at 4:00 pm Alaska Daylight Time (8:00 pm EST), which you can join. Let’s take that extra step together, to send the message loud and clear that Americans do not approve of the wanton killing of brown bears by such debased methods and for such frivolous purposes.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.