National Park Service bans sport hunters from baiting bears

A grizzly bear walks over rocks
A brown bear in Denali National Park. (NPS photo)

The National Park Service has decided to ban the practice of baiting bears in Alaska in order to hunt them for sport. Wildlife conservation groups applaud that step, though some say the new hunting rule doesn’t go far enough.

The new federal ban on bear-baiting only applies to sport hunters in National Park Service-managed Preserves in Alaska. It applies to black and brown bears but doesn’t affect subsistence hunting.

The Park Service cited safety concerns. Visitors could stumble onto a bait station and have a bad encounter with a bear defending its food, the rule says. Hunters who bait bears typically use dog food, donuts or bacon grease, which the Park Service says is a public safety risk because it conditions bears to human sources of food.

The ban comes after years of rulemaking and reversals as each new administration took office. The agency also had to comply with a judge’s decision in a lawsuit challenging previous Alaska hunting rules.

The National Parks Conservation Association says the new ban is too narrow. Prior versions banned killing black bear cubs,  sows with cubs, and sport hunting wolf pups during denning season. Those practices are allowed under the current rule.

Meanwhile, the state of Alaska and many sporthunters say the federal government should leave wildlife management to the state. 

Rod Arno, policy director at the Alaska Outdoor Council, said by text message that the state continues to lose game-management authority, bit by bit. He said the rule represents a lost opportunity to harvest bears, which, in his view, leaves fewer moose for human consumption.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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