The Alaska Game Board announced that it intends to open up 95,000 acres of land adjacent to the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, to bear hunting. This has prompted support and outrage.

”Those bears are world famous. Their numbers appear to be in decline,” said Dave Bachrach, a bear viewing guide. ”Until they know why, how can we open the back door and allow hunters in to kill some more?”

The board’s chairman, Ron Somerville, said the sanctuary was created to protect bear viewing _ not individual bears.
”It was never designed to protect the bears wherever they wandered,” he said, adding the state constitution requires that game be managed for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans.

Rod Arno, executive director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, which is a strong advocate for hunters’ rights, favors the new rules, disputing the theory that the McNeil River bears are so used to humans it would be unsporting to hunt them. Once the bears leave the falls near the viewing area and venture outside the sanctuary, they are as wily as other bears, he said.
”Having guided there personally, I know that those bears that frequent the McNeil Falls, once they are away from that site they are just as leery as any bear that I have guided,” he said.

Another group representing hunters, the Alaska Professional Hunters Association Inc., said the bad publicity stings, rendering the game board’s decision risky to the reputation of hunters.
”From our point of view, the allocation or opportunity to harvest a minimum number of bears is not worth the negative feedback,” said the association’s director, Bobby Fithian.

”A bear like Teddy is invaluable,” said Larry Aumiller, who led groups to the platform for three decades as sanctuary manager. ”She is so good, so tolerant. In a way, she’s worth 10 other bears.”

”Alaska has plenty of places where brown bears can be hunted without involving lands surrounding the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary,”

”We are exposing those bears to a danger that they have not been allowed to learn exists,”

Tom Remington