She was the only breeding sow in the area---and among the last few grizzlies in Hatcher Pass. She had three cubs---her second litter was just beginning their third year with the mother. This Spring a neighbor up the road observed three snowmachiners chasing the bear family over a hill while another acted as lookout. The bears retreated to their Winter den where all four snowmachines converged. When the mother charged out to protect her cubs the men shot her to death. The cubs would have been killed as well but were frightened and ran into the cave.
This hunt was only illegal because snowmachines were used to harass and herd the bears. Otherwise---just like the trapper who shot a horse and left it to rot as “bait” to lure the last breeding female of a Denali National Park wolf pack into a snare---this killing would have been “legal.” In Alaska Fish and Game-speak, “a sow with cubs” means two year-olds---these third-year cubs are “hunting opportunities.”
The neighbor who witnessed virtually this entire “hunt” showed up at the kill site on his snowmachine and chided the men for shooting a sow with cubs. They got “lippy” with him until he removed his helmet and was recognized as an acquaintance.
He explained that the slaughtered mother had one more season to teach her cubs to survive and behave properly with Humans. Now she could not protect them against male bears---nor show them the finer points of how to forage in this hunted-out wilderness. Furthermore, he explained to the hunters, these cubs would now be roaming around “confused and with an attitude.”
My neighbor routinely observed these bears and is now even more concerned about me climbing there. The “harvested” sow was a good bear---she never bothered me and I never bothered her. She may have imparted one final lesson to her cubs: Never trust Humans!
This senseless killing only makes sense when you realize that Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game does not manage for healthy, viable wildlife populations---only token survivors. The State kills massive numbers of bears with helicopters, bait and snares---what do they care about one last sow in some Hatcher Pass valley?
But killing off bears is good for the moose, right? Wrong! At Hatcher Pass the same thing that happened to this grizzly family happened long ago to the moose. In each high valley there used to be a breeding cow moose and daughter. These fine breeding cows were spotted from the air and “legally” hunted out years ago. Calves were left to fend for themselves. The moose population never recovered.
My neighbor also told me about two Winter-related moose carcasses this year, one floating in Willow Creek. Plus four in my area makes six dead moose just along the roadway! A hunter himself, my neighbor said hunting in the Hatcher Pass area should be suspended for two years. Hell, hunting should have been suspended here years ago!
So why can’t the State stop the extermination of wildlife at Hatcher Pass? Because Alaska wildlife agencies, game boards and advisory committees are dominated by the commercial wildlife-killing industry and “sporting” groups. Any residual “science” possessed by State biologists is easily suppressed in the face of political pressure. If anyone dared suggest a hunting moratorium in the hunted-out Hatcher Pass area there would an organized scream of outrage from “sportsmen’s” groups and motorized equipment clubs---crying about their “culture,” “heritage,” “tradition” and their “right” to ride around and wipe out the last wildlife in the last valley. This “consumptive use” has nothing to do with “subsistence”---Alaska wildlife management is simply rigged to allow hunters and trappers to “harvest” the last breeding females in an area in order to keep up the façade that the hunting and trapping is just great in the Great Land. The hunters and trappers who wantonly kill these last breeding females are always ready to pronounce the system a “success.” They reckon there’s “plenty” because they got theirs!
The State of Alaska is destroying our finest and most iconic renewable resource. Allowing the last breeding females to be killed off by hunters and trappers is a trademark of Alaska wildlife management---and the public doesn’t seem to give a damn!
There is nothing “noble” about any of this. Governor Sean Parnell has said he would not sacrifice wildlife for another resource---but in this case he is sacrificing our wildlife for nothing but a handful of organized votes! Alaska’s wildlife management system is a sham; the political system which allows this vile desecration to continue is corrupt; the hunters and trappers who “game” the system are dishonest; and Alaskans---indifferent, ignorant and distracted by oil wealth---are no better. Alaska’s official and “legal” wildlife extermination program stinks like a dead horse!
- Rudy Wittshirk