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Board of Game meeting on Southcentral proposals this month

Sabine Poux
A trapping sign off Snug Harbor Road, in Cooper Landing.

The Alaska Board of Game is meeting in Soldotna later this month to talk through hunting and trapping proposals impacting the Kenai Peninsula — including restrictions on trapping and Dall sheep hunting, as well as potential extensions of brown bear hunting season.

Trapping setbacks

A group in Cooper Landing is making another attempt at placing trapping setbacks along popular recreation sites in the area.

Lorraine Temple heads the Cooper Landing Safe Trails Committee and said it’s important to protect off-leash dogs that can end up in traps, particularly as winter recreation in the area increases.

Her group has put forth five setback proposals for trails, pullouts and campgrounds in Cooper Landing.

“We tried to be as conservative as possible — just the areas that were used highly in the winter, like the campgrounds that are groomed for skiing, and people like to take their dogs skiing with them,” Temple said.

One proposal, Proposal 149, would establish 100-yard setbacks along area campgrounds, including Quartz Creek, Crescent Creek, Russian River and Cooper Creek campgrounds. The proposal would set 50-yard setbacks for smaller traps.

Another, Proposal 150, would place setbacks against area roads, including portions of Quartz Creek, Snug Harbor and the entirety of Bean Creek Road.

Other proposals by the committee would place setbacks along highway pullouts near Summit Lake, like Manitoba Mountain (Proposal 151); along popular Cooper Landing trails, including Crescent Creek, Lower Russian Lake, the south end of Resurrection Trail and Bean Creek Trail (Proposal 152); and along the beaches on Kenai Lake (Proposal 153). There’s also a proposal that would place signs at trapping access points (Proposal 154).

Temple’s committee has already submitted proposals to the Federal Subsistence Management Board in 2021, but those failed. At the time, Ed Holsten, representing Cooper Landing, told the Southcentral Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council that the board cannot reasonably restrict federal subsistence users more than state users, and suggested bringing a proposal to the Board of Game.

Temple said the group’s proposals incorporate feedback from a survey of Cooper Landing residents, and that the changes wouldn’t apply to subsistence users.

“So we were trying to look really critically at what is really used with kids and dogs running around, and then to honor the trappers that have been using these other areas and try to coexist,” Temple said.

The issue has been controversial. Trappers and activists both have been hosting trapping workshops in the area to teach dog owners how to get their dogs out of traps.

Ted Spraker, who heads the local branch of Safari Club, said it’s important for people to control their dogs so they don’t end up near traps. And he doesn’t think setbacks would help.

“The lures that are used by trappers — if a dog smells it, they can cover 100 yards, pretty quickly,” Spraker said.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance also submitted a proposal to set limits on hunting and trapping near within a quarter-mile of the incoming wildlife underpasses and overpasses that will be built as part of the Sterling Highway project through Cooper Landing. A group in Homer has also submitted proposals for the southern peninsula.

Extending brown bear seasons

Spraker, from Safari Club, sponsored one of two proposals to extend brown bear season, currently from Sept. 1 to May 31.

Proposal 136 would extend the end of the season to June 15. He said brown and black bears will often leave bait stations at the end of May, when moose calving season is at its peak.

“And then, about the first week of June, it seems like they come back to bait stations,” Spraker said.

He said extending the season would give hunters the chance to harvest those bears when they come back.

Caleb Martin is executive director with the Alaska Outdoors Council. His proposal (Proposal 134) would extend the season a month on both sides — from Aug. 10 to June 30.  He said that’s so hunters have more leeway to capture later and early season bears when the opportunity arises.

Martin submitted another proposal (Proposal 144) that would set clearer definitions for where hunters can and cannot bait bears. He said as it stands, the language is vague — for example, hunters are not allowed to bait within a mile of a “permanent dwelling,” but Martin said it’s unclear what that means.

“It would be nice to have it black and white, so people know they can bait there or they can’t bait there, and the public knows there may or may not be bait stations out there,” Martin said.

The Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee put in a proposal (Proposal 108) to limit the harvest of Dall sheep amid declining numbers, and there are multiple proposals to create an archery hunt for moose on the lower Kenai Peninsula. The board will also discuss proposals related to Cordova, Kodiak and Anchorage; you can read the book of proposals here.

The deadline to submit written commentsahead of the Board of Game meeting is midnight tonight.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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