Freak accident in ditch near Morristown kills popular hunting guide

http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/local_news/freak-accident-in-ditch-near-morristown-kills-popular-hunting-guide/article_5589bcc2-3a0e-11e9-8456-bb81e477ab3c.html

Pineur
Morristown resident Travis Pineur on a hunting expedition. He was killed Sunday in freak accident in a ditch during the blizzard. Photo courtesy of Caring Bridge

MORRISTOWN — A rural Morristown man killed while trying to free his pickup from a snowy ditch was a well-known big-game hunting and fishing guide who traveled the world in pursuit of trophies for himself and his clients.

Travis Pineur, co-founder of Nomad Adventures, died Sunday about 4 miles from his home in Morristown Township under a freak set of circumstances along a rural road, according to the Rice County Sheriff’s Office.

The 33-year-old Pineur chronicled many of his hunts in extensively produced videos on YouTube, where viewers see him hunting bear in Alaska, snow geese in Missouri and big game and fowl in New Zealand.

Pineur’s loss to hunting and fishing was felt not only in Minnesota but thousands of miles away.

H & H Alaskan Outfitters, on the Kenai Peninsula, posted on its Facebook page that “Travis’s personality was as big as the Alaska size game he hunted. He lived large, with adventure in his blood.

“Many of our clients had the privilege of hunting and spending time in the field with Travis. His dedication and skill were some of the best in the industry.”

On Sunday southwest of Faribault, a motorist who lives nearby stopped and attached a strap to the two vehicles, intending to pull the pickup from the ditch.

However, the strap broke on Tyler Nusbaum’s vehicle and sent the broken hitch hurtling toward Pineur’s pickup. The piece went through the windows of the camper top and the back of the pickup, and it hit Pineur in the back of the head, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Blizzard conditions prevented an air ambulance to respond to the scene, the Sheriff’s Office said. Instead, he was driven in an ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.

Pineur is survived by his wife, Megan Pineur. The two were married last year and co-owned Nomad Adventures. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

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Black bear wandering around Kincaid Park in the middle of winter? Here’s why.

  •  Author: Tegan Hanlon
  •  Updated: 6 days ago
  •  Published 6 days ago
A black bear, in front of the front-end loader, rummages around equipment at Kincaid Park on Jan. 25, 2019. (Craig Norman photo)

A black bear, in front of the front-end loader, rummages around equipment at Kincaid Park on Jan. 25, 2019. (Craig Norman photo)

A black bear was spotted last week in Anchorage’s Kincaid Park, the wooded and popular recreation area on the west side of town.

Some reported the bear eating grass or drinking water or just wandering around, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. At least a few young skiers with the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage’s Junior Nordic League saw the bear off the snowmaking loop last Wednesday evening during a particularly busy evening at the park. They reported the sighting to their coach, Geoff Wright.

“I assumed they were looking at a moose or a large dog or a coyote, but probably not a bear,” Wright said. “It’s stories from 6- and 7-year-old kids and they say all sorts of funny things.”

Like many park users, Wright has spotted bears in Kincaid in the summer. But in his 20 or so years of skiing in the park, he said, he’d never seen a bear there in the middle of winter. Still, he told his group to turn around just in case. Later, another skier showed him a picture of the bear taken that evening. Bear sighting confirmed.

Fish and Game hasn’t gotten a report of the Kincaid bear since last Friday, so it has likely headed back to its den, said department spokesman Ken Marsh. The department is aware of bear dens in Kincaid.

“They usually don’t stay up long unless they have that consistent food source,” Marsh said.

But the midwinter bear spotting raises the questions: Why was the bear awake? Did it have to do with the warmer-than-usual temperatures last week? Do bears actually sleep all winter?

Sean Farley, a Fish and Game wildlife physiologist, didn’t see the Kincaid Park bear last week, but here’s what he said about why a bear might be wandering around Anchorage in January:

Weather plays a role in when bears head into their dens. In the Anchorage area, black and brown bears generally hibernate from late October or November to April or May, he said. Female bears that are pregnant typically go in earliest and come out the latest.

Farley described hibernation as a “spectrum of physiological adaptations” to conserve energy. Arctic ground squirrels, for instance, can drop their body temperatures to below freezing. Bears aren’t like that.

“They’re not out cold like ground squirrels, they’re more like a sleeping dog that can be roused pretty easily,” Farley said. “They’ll get up and move around and thrash around.”

For bears, hibernation means heading into dens and lowering their metabolic rate. Their body temperature lowers from roughly 101 degrees to about 90 or 91 degrees, Farley said. It’s a survival tactic to make it through the winter, when there’s little to no food available.

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During hibernation, bears usually don’t eat, drink, urinate or defecate. They’ll lose about 20 to 25 percent of their body weight. Mostly fat, Farley said.

Yes, they also sleep, but not the whole time.

Bears cycle through periods of deep sleep and periods of arousal. Their body temperature will increase a bit when they’re aroused. They might shift positions. They might poke their heads out of their den. They might even leave for a few hours and come back — that’s not common, but it’s not unheard of, Farley said.

“When we say ‘leave the den,’ they don’t usually go on big walks,” he said.

Pregnant bears will give birth just a couple of months into hibernation. They’ll nurse their cubs in their dens, despite not eating or drinking.

“They’ve got these newborn cubs that they’ve got to take care of. They can’t go to sleep and just be out of it,” Farley said. “The cubs can’t do anything. … All they can do is eat and scream and that’s about it. She has to move them around and hold them close to her body so they can nurse. She has to clean them.”

It’s very unlikely that a female bear with cubs will leave its den in the winter, Farley said.

So, why might a bear head outside in January?

A bear might get restless and want to stretch its legs, Farley said.

It’s also possible the bear went into a den too skinny. Its energy reserves might have gotten so low at some point that it prompted the bear to wake up and go look for food. It’s that or starve to death, Farley said.

Or, maybe a noise outside of the den stirred it when it wasn’t in a deep sleep. Farley noted, however, that he has photographs of snowmachine tracks that go over a den hole that’s covered in snow.

What about last week’s weather? Temperatures spiked to 44 degrees on Friday at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Could that be why the black bear wasn’t in its den?

A goal of a bear den: To keep the cold out, Farley said. So mild fluctuations in outside temperature shouldn’t really impact bears in insulated dens.

“If they’re deep inside in some sort of den, maybe covered with snow, they’re insulated,” he said. “So fluctuations in the ambient temperature outside the den don’t get reflected as strongly inside the den. Plus they’re in the den heating it themselves because they’re at least 90 degrees or so.”

In the Anchorage area, black bears often den in trees. Both brown and black bears will also dig into hillsides and excavate a dirt den. Bears can den in many other places too, Farley said.

If high temperatures melt snow and that leads to a bear’s den getting flooded, that’s another reason the bear might head outside. It’ll likely try to find another den, Farley said.

If you see a bear in the middle of winter, give it space, just as you would in the summer, Marsh said.

“Maybe turn around, change your course, you don’t want to push it,” he said.

Really this time of year, Marsh said, it’s more likely you’ll come upon a cranky moose.

“It’s been a long winter and they’re starting to get a little nutritionally stressed,” Marsh said. “Be alert just like you would in the summertime and give wildlife their space.”

Mixed-ancestry wolves are recolonizing the Pacific Northwest

Their combination of coastal and inland DNA could help them survive a changing climate.

This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems.

https://www.hcn.org/articles/wolves-mixed-ancestry-wolves-are-recolonizing-the-pacific-northwest

Wolves were wiped out in Washington state in the early 20th century — the victims of bounty hunting as ranching and farming expanded in the state. Over the past two decades, however, under the protection of state and federal wildlife authorities, wolves have been reclaiming their former turf. But as new research shows, the wolves now living and hunting in Washington’s forests are different from those that lived there more than a century ago. These new wolves are hybrids — crossbreeds of inland wolves from the interior United States and a unique, beach-loving subspecies from as far north as Southeast Alaska.

The ancestors of the wolves now recolonizing the Pacific Northwest include a coastal subspecies.
Chris Darimont / raincoast.org

The researchers who made this discovery think the hybrid wolves’ DNA could help them thrive in a changing landscape.

Conventional wisdom holds that the wolf packs slowly recolonizing not only Washington but Oregon and California are the descendants of animals that migrated west from the interior — from the mountains, plains, and forests of Montana and Idaho. But when researchers analyzed DNA samples from wolves throughout the Pacific Northwest, the results told a different story. Sarah Hendricks — now a computational biology doctoral candidate at the University of Idaho — was a research assistant at the University of California, Los Angeles when she and her colleagues amassed genetic samples from the region’s wolves. A recent analysis shows that some of the wolves have unique genetic markers that could have only come from the distinct coastal wolves of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.

Coastal wolves differ from their interior cousins in a number of important ways. Unlike interior wolves, which stalk large mammals such as elk through forests and fields, coastal wolves spend much of their time on beaches, hunting salmon and marine mammals such as seals. Coastal wolves also look different — they’re smaller and their fur has a red-brown tinge.

So far, the hybrid wolves are sticking to the lifestyle of their ancestors from the east. “As of right now, the wolf packs are mostly in the habitat that’s suitable for interior wolves, but we think over time they’ll begin to establish in habitat that’s more suitable for coastal wolves,” says Hendricks. As the climate continues to change, Hendricks suspects the hybrid wolves’ genetic diversity will allow them to adapt better than if they just had genes from interior wolves.

Even without the benefits of genetic mixing, wolves are generally quite adaptable animals, says Jay Shepherd, who leads the wolf program for the nonprofit organization Conservation Northwest. In Yellowstone Park, for instance, wolves hunt bison. These wolves are much larger than those in surrounding regions, but their size is the consequence of a diet driven by learned behavior rather than genetics. Still, he agrees that hybrids could have an advantage in areas with a mix of habitats.

The coastal wolves of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska are a distinctive subpopulation with red-brown fur and a hunting style adapted to coastal life.
Chris Darimont / raincoast.org

The finding also offers a life preserver of a sort to the coastal wolves of British Columbia and Alaska, whose populations are dwindling in many parts of their range. For example, Hendricks points to a population in Southeast Alaska that is declining quite drastically. The hybrids may serve as a genetic reservoir, protecting some of the coastal wolves’ distinctive traits.

But while the hybrid wolf population may act as a reservoir, there could be complications if the Alaskan coastal wolves became protected under the United States Endangered Species Act. In that case, wildlife managers in the Pacific Northwest would find themselves charged with managing wolves that share genetic traits with federally protected animals. “The problem is that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t have a lot of language regarding how to deal with hybridization,” says Hendricks.

Hendricks hopes her findings will inspire biologists and policymakers to focus on sorting out the unanswered legal question of what should be done when the ancestor of a hybrid animal is an endangered species, whether these mixed-lineage descendants should be protected as well or left vulnerable to hunting and habitat loss. Either way, she thinks the hybrid wolves’ mixed heritage will be an asset as they continue to reclaim their species’ old haunts across the Pacific Northwest.

Alaskans say ‘no’ to cruel hunting methods for killing hibernating bears, wolf pups in dens

June 29, 2018

A rule recently proposed by the Trump administration would roll back an Obama-era regulation that prohibits controversial and scientifically unjustified methods of hunting on Alaska’s national preserves, which are federal public lands. These egregious hunting methods include the use of artificial light to attract hibernating bears and their cubs out of their dens to kill them, shooting wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, using bait to attract brown and black bears, shooting vulnerable swimming caribou, including with the aid of motorboats, and using dogs to hunt black bears. Biologists have already condemned these methods, and now a supermajority of Alaska’s residents have spoken out resoundingly against allowing them in their state.

The telephone poll, conducted by Remington Research Group and released by the Humane Society of the United States, found a whopping 71 percent of Alaskan voters oppose allowing hunters to use artificial light to attract hibernating bears and their cubs out of their dens to kill them. Sixty-nine percent oppose hunting black bears with packs of hounds, and 75 percent oppose hunting swimming caribou with the aid of motorboats. Sixty percent of Alaskan voters oppose the baiting of bears with pet food, grease, rotting game or fish or other high-calorie foods, and 57 percent oppose killing whole packs of wolves and coyotes when they are raising their pups in their dens.

The poll also found that a majority of voters disfavor allowing trophy hunters and trappers killing wolves, brown bears, black bears, wolverines, lynx and other wildlife on state lands along the northeast boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve.

In complete disregard for the wishes of the state’s residents, however, the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service is now accepting public comments on the controversial rule that’s designed to benefit a handful of trophy hunters looking for their next big kill.

This indiscriminate killing of native carnivores such as grizzly bears and wolves is often justified as “protecting” ungulates, animals like caribou and moose. But in Alaska and elsewhere, studies show, such predator control, including trophy hunting or culling of wild native carnivores in order to grow game herds, just doesn’t work. In fact, that is precisely the finding of a comprehensive new study that was reported in Scientific American.

On the other hand, live native carnivores like grizzly bears and wolves contribute immensely to the state’s economy. In Alaska, wildlife-watching tourism brings $2 billion every year to local, rural economies.

Several studies in Alaska show that predator control is doomed to fail, because the unforgiving Arctic lands cannot sustain large numbers of prey herds in the short growing seasons followed by extreme winters. Alaska officials have also failed to acknowledge that with the massive killing of wolves or bears, other smaller predators rise up to compete for those same prey, rendering these cruel and harmful predator control practices utterly futile.

Most Alaskans do not want hunters, backed by the deep pockets of trophy-hunting groups like Safari Club International and Alaska Outdoor Council, treating their state as a shopping mall for bearskin rugs and wolf heads to adorn their walls. American wildlife is for all of us to enjoy, and you can do your part to help save it by submitting a commentopposing this new proposed rule by July 23.

Three Hunting Guides Arraigned in Nome

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Eric Gorski.

HUNTING GUIDE BRIAN LEE SIMPSON, 56, was arraigned in the Nome courthouse on Monday. Simpson was charged with five misdemeanor violations of Alaska hunting laws, including illegal guiding on private land.

Last Friday, two of Simpson’s employees were also arraigned. Tyler Weyiouanna, 25,  was charged with aiding in the violation of hunting regulations and using a motor vehicle to harass game. Matthew Iyatunguk, 23, was charged with one count of harassing game.

The charges were initially filed in Alaska District Court on August 17th. Simpson has hired his own attorney, while Weyiouanna and Iyatunguk will be represented by public defenders appointed by the court. All three men are set to appear at the courthouse in Nome on November 9th.

Image at top: Brown bear. Photo via Flickr / Creative Commons, courtesy of Eric Gorski.

Trump administration moves to lift restrictions on hunting, trapping in national preserves in Alaska

Under proposed changes hunters could bait brown bears, hunt black bears with dogs and kill wolves

The Associated Press · Posted: May 22, 2018 3:33 PM CT | Last Updated: May 22

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.2735917.1407976946!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/travel-trip-alaska-katmai-bears.jpg&gt;

A brown bear catches a salmon in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska in July 2013. Under proposed changes to sport hunting and trapping regulations for national preserves, hunters could bait brown bears with bacon and doughtnuts. (The Associated Press)

The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.

The National Park Service issued a notice Monday of its intent to amend regulations for sport hunting and trapping in national preserves to bring the federal rules in line with Alaska state law.

Under the proposed changes, hunters would also be allowed to hunt black bears with dogs, kill wolves and pups in their dens, and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.

Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves.- Collette Adkins, lawyer and biologist

These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — were outlawed on federal lands in 2015. Members of the public have 60 days to provide comment on the proposed new rules.

“The conservation of wildlife and habitat for future generations is a goal we share with Alaska,” said Bert Frost, the park service’s regional director. “This proposed rule will reconsider NPS efforts in Alaska for improved alignment of hunting regulations on national preserves with State of Alaska regulations, and to enhance consistency with harvest regulations on surrounding non-federal lands and waters.”

Alaska has 10 national preserves covering nearly 95,830 square kilometers.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4673578.1527022003!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/alaska-black-bears.jpg&gt;

A black bear and cub seen in Anchorage, Alaska. The Trump administration plans to reverse a ban on using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens on some public lands in the state. (The Associated Press)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was “pleased to see the National Park Service working to better align federal regulations with State of Alaska hunting and trapping regulations,” Maria Gladziszewski, the state agency’s deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said in an email to the Associated Press.

She said the proposal is “progress in that direction, and we appreciate those efforts. Alaskans benefit when state and federal regulations are consistent.”

Gladziszewski said the state doesn’t conduct predator control in national preserves.

“Predator control could be allowed in preserves only with federal authorization because such actions are subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review,” she said.

Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman who displays a taxidermied bear in his Washington office along with mounted heads from a bison and an elk.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4673491.1527019877!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/u-s-senate-ryan-zinke.jpg&gt;

Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

The Obama-era restrictions on hunting on federal lands in Alaska were challenged by Safari Club International, a group that promotes big-game hunting. The Associated Press reported in March that Zinke had appointed a board loaded with trophy hunters to advise him on conserving threatened and endangered wildlife, including members of the Safari Club.

President Donald Trump’s sons are also avid trophy hunters who have made past excursions to Africa and Alaska.

Collette Adkins, a lawyer and biologist with the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, expressed outrage at the rollback.

“Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves,” she said.

The Humane Society of the United States said it would oppose the new rules.

“These federal lands are havens for wildlife and the National Park Service is mandated to manage these ecosystems in a manner that promotes conservation,” said Anna Frostic, a lawyer for the animal rights group. “This proposed rule, which would allow inhumane killing of our native carnivores in a misguided attempt to increase trophy hunting opportunities, is unlawful and must not be finalized.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/trump-restrictions-hunting-trapping-alaska-preserves-1.4673467

Jimmy Kimmel scoop: Donald Trump “hates baby bears”

Jimmy Kimmel scoop: Donald Trump “hates baby bears”

https://www.fastcompany.com/40577274/jimmy-kimmel-scoop-donald-trump-hates-baby-bears

While we know that Donald Trump hates sharks, at least according to Stormy Daniels. Turns out the president also hates baby bears, at least according to Jimmy Kimmel.

Kimmel’s realization came in the wake of news that the Interior Department is ending a ban on hunting hibernating bears and their cubs in their dens. The National Park Service, under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, apparently has a problem with some of the current protections for black bears, “including cubs and sows with cubs,” that prevent hunters from “harvest practices” that include using bait to lure bears out, using lights to find hibernating animals, and using dogs to kill bear cubs.

The National Park Service now wants to roll back those pesky rules that stop people from killing baby bears for fun, according to a proposal, which was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday. Under the proposed changes, hunters will now be able to hunt black bears with dogs, use motorboats to shoot swimming caribou, and kill wolves and pups in their dens. According to Kimmel, it’s all part of Trump’s plan to make America great again—and get rid of those evil baby bears.

Assault Rifle Slaughter of Denali Wolves

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Washington, DC, April 3, 2018 — The State of Alaska is scrambling to shut down hunting and trapping adjacent to Denali National Park over concerns that excessive kills may destabilize this iconic wolf population. Photos posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) show a man armed with an AR15 semiautomatic rifle displaying ten wolf carcasses outside Denali.

In an emergency order issued on March 30, 2018 and revised yesterday, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (DFG) cut short the hunting and trapping season on state land along the Stampede Trail, including land adjacent to the eastern boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve. The stated reason for the order is that –

“The wolf harvest this season in the area described is more than the past 5-year average and there is the potential for more harvest to occur before the end of the regulatory hunting and trapping seasons.”

While DFG claims in its order that “There are no conservation concerns for wolves” in the Denali region, the agency admits that it has no idea how many wolves have been killed this year. Moreover, the state has not acknowledged reports that a hunter on a snow machine armed with a semiautomatic rifle recently killed ten wolves outside Denali.

“While I am glad that Governor Walker has acted I am concerned that it may be too little, too late,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member, who has led the charge for permanent buffer zones around Denali. “The historic high level of take has already altered wolf ecological dynamics, not counting these reports of additional kills just now coming in.”

Studies show hunting and trapping outside Denali is having a big impact on the viability of wolf packs inside Denali, which is Alaska’s top tourist attraction, drawing more than a half-million visitors annually. Not only are Denali wolf family groups disrupted, but visitor-viewing success has plummeted as well.

Similarly, at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, hunting has so decimated wolf packs that the National Park Service had to end a more than 20-year research program on predator-prey relationships. Its scientists found that the wolf population in the 2.5 million acre national preserve is “no longer in a natural state” nor are there enough survivors to maintain a “self-sustaining population.”

Significantly, Alaska has agreed to participate in an independent National Academy of Sciences review of its predator control programs for the first time in 20 years since the administration of Governor Tony Knowles (1994-2002), the only governor in Alaska history to prohibit lethal predator control programs.

“Alaska’s predator control program is clearly out of control,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Alaska should put predator control on hold until it gets a handle on what is actually occurring.”

In response to the recent excessive losses at Denali, Alaska citizens are renewing their call for the Governor to establish a permanent no-kill buffer protecting all park predator species – wolves, bears, lynx, wolverines – along the boundary of Denali, to restore the natural ecosystem and visitor viewing success in the park.

Read the state emergency hunting and trapping closure order

Look at hunting adverse impacts on Denali wolf packs

See decimation of Yukon-Charley wolf packs

View Trump repeal of hunting restrictions inside Alaskan national parks and refuges

Look at growing doubts about Alaska’s predator control program

As crossbows get more popular, Alaska requires specialized training for hunters

http://www.newsminer.com/features/outdoors/as-crossbows-get-more-popular-alaska-requires-specialized-training-for/article_bf03ed98-3966-11e8-b6de-8365aa43c18c.html

  • Sam Friedman sfriedman@newsminer.com
  •  (0)

As used by hunters, a crossbow is somewhere between a gun and a bow. It has a learning curve more like a gun and a range more like archery equipment. Crossbows are still relatively novel weapons. More than moose hunts, they may bring to mind images of medieval re-enactors or Chewbacca from the “Star Wars” movies.

But they’ve become common enough that Alaska’s Board of Game has asked the state to develop a training class for them. Starting July 1, crossbow hunters will be required to take a class and pass a field shooting exercise to hunt big game animals anywhere in the state.

To learn more about crossbows, I asked crossbow hunter and occasional Daily News-Miner contributor Jeff Bushke to show me the basics. Bushke has been crossbow hunting for more than a decade and set up a practice range against a snow berm in his front yard.

Bushke got interested in crossbows when he was working at the Fairbanks Sportsman’s Warehouse store soon after it opened.

“That opened my eyes to a lot of things,” he said. “When you work at a sporting goods store, you’ve got to play.”

His crossbow, a TenPoint brand Pro Fusion model, is 10 years old and shoots at 300 feet per second.

“It’s not that fast by today’s standards,” he said. “But it’s killed four moose and four bears and has punched a lot of holes in targets.”

Alaska doesn’t allow crossbows in special “archery only” hunts except for hunters who have medical exemptions. Bushke has an exemption for a shoulder injury, so he can take his crossbow on archery hunts. But he sometimes takes it on general hunts where he could use a rifle. In particular, he likes taking the crossbow to his bear bait station.

“It’s a great tool for killing bears,” he said. “If you shoot a bear with it they think they’ve got stung by a bee. They don’t think they’re dead.”

Many crossbows have mechanical aids to help cock them. Bushke’s uses a detachable crank on the stock that turns easily to slowly bring the string back toward the trigger mechanism. After pulling back the string, Bushke loaded the crossbow with a bolt, the term for the short arrows used for crossbows.

Unlike a bow, you don’t have to hold the tension in a crossbow while waiting to fire. After it’s been cocked, the crossbow is ready to fire and just needs a trigger pull to release.

Bushke gave me the most important piece of advice when I got ready to fire: Be careful with hand placement on the crossbow foregrip. Grab it too high, and you’ve put your fingers into the path of the string.

“It’s a mistake you would only make once,” he told me.

Firing the crossbow otherwise feels much like shooting a rifle. I can see why it would be easier to learn to shoot accurately with a crossbow than an actual bow. My first shots all went high and to the right, but a fourth shot landed close to the middle of the target.

It’s easy to be fooled by the weapon’s accuracy at close range and assume it can kill a distant moose. Ginamaria Smith, who coordinates Alaska’s hunter education program, said this is the biggest misconception she’s run into with crossbows. That’s a problem, because people who attempt distance shots with crossbows are likely to wound animals instead of killing them. 

The North American Crossbow Association trade group warns that popular videos of long range crossbow shots have fueled misconceptions about a crossbow’s true range.

“The effective and ethical range for a crossbow is at 50 yards or less,” the group states on its website. “While it is neat to see the 100-yard trick shots, they should never be attempted during any live hunting situation.”

So far about 70 people in Alaska have signed up for crossbow education. The first field tests — on April 15 in Anchorage and on May 16 in Fairbanks — are filling up fast, Smith said.

In the field test, hunters will shoot twice at four 3-D targets at distances they’re likely to encounter in the field. They’ll need to make a kill shot on each target and a double kill on one target.

Denali Wolf Update: A little good news, more bad news

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game approved an Emergency Order closing the wolf hunting/trapping season adjacent to Denali National Park. However, the proposed Denali Buffer legislation is stalled in the Legislature, and controversy sparked over a hunter’s braggadocio photos of dead wolves east of the Park.

First, a little good news: ADF&G issued an Emergency Order immediately closing the Stampede Trail corridor (state land along the northeast boundary of the Park, home to the most easily viewed wolves along the Park Road) to hunting and trapping wolves.

A formal request for the Order was submitted March 24 based on information from Park biologists that five radio-collared Park wolves already had been killed by hunting/trapping this winter. Because only about one in four wolves are collared, there was concern that the total harvest would be much higher – and unfortunately it is. According to the ADF&G, eight wolves were killed so far this winter in the Stampede area, twice the average annual number. That total will increase again when the final state harvest report and spring Park wolf survey are complete.

According to the Order, hunting in the area was closed effective April 2, and the trapping season will end April 9. The seasons were scheduled to end April 15 and April 30, respectively. Trappers have 30 days after the season to report their harvest, so the final tally of wolves killed won’t be known until mid-May.

One of the wolves (apparently) trapped was the alpha male of the Riley Creek pack, which claims territory along the Park Road west of the entrance. Sightings of members of the Riley Creek pack increased the likelihood of visitors seeing wolves from about 5 percent in prior years to 17 percent last summer. Loss of the alpha male is critical to the future of the pack: the remaining wolves may fail to produce pups this spring, or disburse altogether. In recent years the loss of key breeding wolves resulted in the demise of the Grant Creek and Toklat packs; both had territories adjacent to the Riley Creek wolves.

AWA and other groups solicited comments to ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten in support of the emergency closure request. Our concerns were heard in the administration, although in practice the closure shaves only a very minimal amount of time off of the full hunting/trapping seasons.

Bad news: Just a day before the emergency closure request was submitted, the Alaska Senate Resources Committee “set aside” House Bill 105, which would establish a no wolf hunting/trapping buffer on state lands adjacent to Denali’s northeastern boundary. That action stalls – and more than likely kills – the legislation.

Again, AWA and others solicited public comments in favor of HB105 for the Committee hearing. Many were received – so many that Committee Chair Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) actively solicited comments from the opposition. In a public online trapping forum, Sen. Giessel wrote to Fairbanks trapper Al Barrette:

“…If there are others who oppose the bill, please have them send emails, Al.

I have literally hundreds of support emails…and your one opposition email.”

Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) sponsored the bill and worked tirelessly to get it passed by the full House last May, which was a rare win for pro-wildlife legislation. He predicted it was a long shot to move ahead in the more conservative-minded Senate, and that proved true at its first committee hurdle. Nevertheless we owe Andy a heartfelt “thank you” for his heroic work on this and other bills supporting wildlife and the environment.

Bad news, illustrated. The Denali wolf controversy flared on social media last weekend when graphic photos circulated of a hunter proudly posing with an AK-15 semiautomatic rifle, snowmachine and 10 dead wolves. The two photos can be viewed on our website at:http://akwildlife.org/february-2018-wolf-kill-photos/

(Warning: they are graphic and disturbing.)

The initial anonymous email accompanying the photos implied they were Denali wolves killed in the nearby Healy area. When queried, ADF&G and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers issued a press release asserting that the wolves were not killed in the Stampede corridor/Denali area, but were harvested legally about 70 miles east of Denali in February. (Therefore it is unknown if the wolves denned in or could have been seen in the Park.)

However, without a buffer to protect wolves from hunting/trapping, such killing is legal – and certainly does occur – adjacent to the Park boundary.

Furthermore, such egregious killing is all too common statewide under the guise of Alaska’s ongoing Intensive Management (predator control) programs utilizing extended harvest seasons and liberal (or non-existent) harvest limits across multiple species, including bears and coyotes. This “slaughter”, not to be confused with reasonably regulated “hunting” using the principles of fair-chase, is commonplace across Alaska. It’s just not often the public is able to see the perpetrators’ brazen bragging.

If you have not already done so, please sign the online petition, started by Among Wolvesco-author Marybeth Holleman in 2015, asking the federal and state governments to agree to create a no-wolf-kill buffer adjacent to Denali. To date 360,000+ people have signed on.  https://www.thepetitionsite.com/423/700/229/halt-the-killing-of-denali-national-park-wolves/ 

Finally, again, thank you for supporting the Denali wolves and AWA. We are sorry we don’t have better news to report, but accomplishing anything “pro-wildlife” in this state where most politicians are openly “pro hunter/trapper” is an uphill struggle. However, there are still other avenues to pursue, and we will always keep up the fight for these wolves and all of Alaska’s wildlife.