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Wounded bears to count differently under change

The Alaska Board of Game wrapped up its Southeast meeting in Sitka on Tuesday evening. And one of the proposals to get the board’s green light has to do with brown bears.

The seven-member board approved changes to the way dead bears are counted in Unit 4, which is the area near Sitka, including Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof islands.

Previously, bears that were wounded and then escaped were automatically counted as a dead female bear. But the Alaska Professional Hunters Association, whose members include bear hunting guides, argued that in many cases, that’s not true. They said escaped bears often survive, and are often not female. The group said counting wounded bears as dead females unfairly raises the figure on human-caused bear mortality, and limits hunting opportunities.

The board agreed, and as of July 1, wounded bears will no longer automatically count as dead females. The vote was 6 to 1, with member Teresa Sager Albaugh, from Tok, voting no.

The change doesn’t come without a condition: Board of Game officials intend to write a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, which grants permits to bear guides. The board will ask the federal agency to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for better enforcement of bear regulations.

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