An Obama-era rule that governed hunting predators on 77 million acres of federal land in Alaska has been rolled back by the Trump administration.
In Alaska, there exists a mandate for hunting predators, recognizing that deer, moose, and caribou are important human food sources. Predators, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, are responsible for about 80% of the deaths of these animals in a given year. So when those numbers drop too low, the state responds by “culling” predator populations.
But the state wanted to expand on its rights for predator control, allowing for the hunting to take place in federal wildlife refuges. Each time they’d request the expansion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service routinely denied them. Last year, they made that denial permanent.
Inevitably, the issue reached President Trump, who on April 3 signed a resolution revoking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that banned predator control in Alaska’s refuges. Alaska’s sole representative in Congress, Representative Don Young, thinks the state will do a fine job of managing their predators.
“Some of you will say, ‘Oh, we have to protect the wolf puppies,'” said Young. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the law.”
But critics of the rule believe that this type of hunting is unsportsmanlike and could pose problems down the road for predator populations. Previously, hunting of predators had a scientific basis to it. Trump’s rule has experts worried that over-hunting will imperil species.
“Brown bear biologists from both the state side and the federal side had real concerns about the amount of unlimited harvest and the amount of females that would be taken by what was proposed by the state,” said Geoff Haskett, the former regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Animal welfare groups have expressed deep concern about the passing of the rule.
“What the House did today should shock the conscience of every animal lover in America,” the Humane Society’s chief executive Wayne Pacelle said in a statement after the U.S. House voted on the rule.
“If the Senate and President concur, we’ll see wolf families killed in their dens [and] bears chased down by planes.”
Still, some in Alaska don’t think much will change.
“It doesn’t change the laws and authorities and existing regulations that the service already has,” Haskett said. “It’s really back to square one.”