October 25, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (907) 262-7021
SOLDOTNA, AK – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announces
an emergency closure of sport hunting of brown bears on the Kenai National
Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), effective October 26, 2013 at 12:01 am. The
emergency closure is issued pursuant to federal regulations at 50 CFR 36.42.
Operating under the assumption of lagging indicators, the known
human-caused brown bear mortalities on the Kenai Peninsula in 2013 now
total at least 66 bears. This includes a minimum of 43 brown bears taken
during spring and fall hunting seasons, and 23 bears killed through defense
of life and property takings, illegal takings, agency kills of problem
bears, and vehicle collisions. Total mortalities now represent more than 10
percent of the best available estimate of a total Kenai Peninsula brown
bear population, numbering 624 bears.
“This level of mortality is not scientifically sustainable,” said Refuge
Manager Andy Loranger in announcing the Refuge emergency closure.
In addition to the total number of mortalities, a high number of
reproductive-age female bears have been killed. Prior to 2013, the Alaska
Department of Fish and Game limited the annual number of human-caused
mortalities of adult female brown bears at 10. At least 22 adult females,
or 33 per cent of all known mortalities, have been killed so far this
year—more than double the previously established limits.
“Survivorship of adult female bears has been shown to be the primary driver
of brown bear population dynamics. Losing so many adult female bears will
have immediate negative impacts on this population,” said Refuge
Supervisory Wildlife Biologist John Morton.
“Kenai brown bears are highly valued by the public for many reasons, and
play an important ecological role,” continued Loranger. “If allowed to
continue this season and into the immediate future, the Service believes
that this level of mortality, which includes a high rate of loss of adult
female bears, will result in a substantial reduction in the Kenai
Peninsula’s brown bear population. This would create a conservation concern
for this population, which in turn would negatively impact hunters and many
other Refuge visitors who value and enjoy viewing and photographing bears.”
Actual human-caused mortalities are higher than the documented number.
“Unreported human-caused mortalities are also occurring at an unknown rate,
and must be considered when identifying sustainable harvest levels,” said
While this emergency closure is only temporary under applicable regulations
and will last for 30 days, the Service intends to develop and implement a
longer term brown bear harvest management strategy on the Refuge.
“As it has in previous years, the Service envisions developing and
eventually implementing harvest parameters after appropriate public input
and review, in an effort to ensure that harvests remain sustainable, and
which focus on adequately protecting adult female bears for the healthy
reproduction of the brown bear population on the Kenai Peninsula,” Morton
The Service will hold public hearings in the near future at which this
strategy will be presented to the public. Hearing dates will be released at
a later date.
“We do not take this closure lightly and will work with the Alaska
Department of Fish & Game to develop a strategy to collaboratively manage
brown bear populations that is consistent with the mandates of both
agencies,” said Loranger.
For additional information, please contact the Kenai National Wildlife
Refuge office during regular business hours at (907) 262-7021 .