August 21, 2014, National Wildlife Refuge Association

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a temporary closure of sport hunting of brown bears at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in order to protect the population from decline.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Wildlife Conservation Stamp Project support this proposal because the Refuge has an obligation to protect brown bears

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve a healthy brown bear population in its natural diversity, ensure continued opportunity for visitors to hunt, view and photograph brown bears, and maintain wilderness character in the Congressionally-designated Kenai Wilderness.

Sport hunting is allowed on the refuge, within limits; however, Service staff are concerned that during last season’s hunt, more than 70 bears were taken by legal and illegal means, many of which were females.

Brown bears aren’t rabbits – it takes a while for them to reproduce

As of 2010, scientists estimated approximately 582 brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula. Brown bears have a relatively low reproductive rate, and with more than 70 bears taken by hunting last year, the local population is declining.

The refuge must follow all the appropriate laws and regulations to uphold its mission to conserve wildlife

The refuge has every right to implement this closure through provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s own regulations.

The proposed closure to sport hunting on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge from Sept. 1 – May 31 would help ensure that the existing brown bears utilizing the refuge can survive, and help stabilize the population. To learn more, visit the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge website.

The Refuge is critically important for maintaining a healthy brown bear population because it protects some of the Kenai Peninsula’s most important brown bear habitat. This temporary closure of brown bear sport hunting on the refuge will help stabilize the population and ensure that brown bears continue to thrive on the Kenai Peninsula for future generations to enjoy.

To see the USFWS press release, click here.

If you want to weigh in on this proposal, the public comment period ends August 27. Click here to take action on behalf of brown bears in Alaska.

Brown Bear Update – September 1st, 2014

Today, September 1st, the USFWS announced it is halting the sport hunting of brown bears in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge through next May 31, 2015, because of the bears’ declining population.

“The temporary closure to sport hunting of brown bears on the Refuge is being implemented as a resource protection measure and to ensure consistency with Refuge purposes,” the Department of the Interior said in a media release. “The Service believes that documented levels of human-caused mortality of brown bears in 2014, combined with those of recent years, are causing the Kenai brown bear population to decline. Allowing additional mortality through sport hunting on the Refuge would conflict with its statutory purposes to conserve all wildlife in their natural diversity and to provide opportunity for visitors to hunt, view and photograph wildlife.”

There were 582 bears in the Refuge in 2010, the USFWS said, down from an estimated 624. So far in 2014, 54 brown bears have been killed on the Kenai Peninsula, the USFWS said, 52 of them taken by hunters and the other two killed in defense of life or property. Brown bears have a lower reproduction potential than other types of bears, the USFWS said, and thus more care must be taken.

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