Fact Check: Is the Trump Administration Allowing Alaska Hunters to Kill Baby Bears?

The reports are true, but they lack critical context. (Photo: Dana Karelus, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region)

The Trump administration’s National Park Service released last week the final version of a rule that would allow hunters in Alaska to take baby bears at den sites, harvest brown bears over bait, and shoot caribou from motorboats, among other hunting tactics.

The media reacted with predictably sensationalized accounts of the administration’s callousness.

“The ‘amazingly cruel’ move by the National Park Service reverses Obama-era regulations which also affect wolves and coyotes,” read one headline in The Guardian.

While the basic facts about the rule are true, media accounts leave out critical pieces of context.  

The rule was written as part of the larger aim to align federal hunting regulations more closely with state law. Prior to a 2015 Obama administration rule, these hunting practices on federal land were controlled by state regulations.

SEE ALSO: Wisconsin Judge Facing Charges for Illegal Hunting Practices

In Alaska, state officials were given sole authority to manage land and wildlife when the region was granted statehood in 1959. That policy was renewed by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Alaska is so large and complex, the thinking went, that state officials would be the most effective stewards of the land.

The Trump administration’s new rule reinforces that precedent by removing federal regulations that had impinged on the state’s historic control.

What’s more, as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game noted in 2018, the controversial harvest methods are only permitted in a small portion of the state and primarily used by Alaska Native people who lack access to grocery stores.  

SEE ALSO: NSSF: Interior’s 2.3 Million-Acre Public Access Expansion Boon for Hunters

“The harvest is small and carried out mostly, if not entirely, by Alaska Native people who have taken bears in dens for thousands of years. The same is true of swimming caribou taken with rifles from boats, allowed only in two isolated game management units where caribou serve as a primary food source,” the department says.

“Taking bears in dens or caribou in the water are not widespread or popular hunting methods. Both activities are currently allowed under state and federal regulations in limited locations and neither is employed by the general hunting community.”

Native peoples have also voiced their support for the new rule.

“The previous rule was implemented without adequate tribal consultation, in disregard to rural Alaska’s dependence on wild food resources,” said Victor Joseph, chair of the Tanana Chiefs Conference which represents 42 tribes in the Alaska interior, in a statement. “The previous limitations enacted in 2015 threatened our way of life and our centuries-long sustainable management practices.”

The new rule is set to take effect at the end of the month.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • KO June 2, 2020, 11:48 am

    Hey Troll, check out the links (you know, those crazy little things highlighted in blue) embedded in the text. These articles would take hours to read if every related source and doc were fully displayed.

    “Doesn”t sound right to you” ? Then write your Master’s Thesis in paleontology based purely on your deep knowledge of native Alaskan hunting practices and send a copy to the author.

  • Jim Morris June 2, 2020, 8:04 am

    Show us the whole document .
    Sounds like you are playing a game with people.Doesn’t sound right to me. Conerning hunting baby bears.

  • LINC QIMIQ June 2, 2020, 2:45 am


    • KO June 2, 2020, 11:58 am

      And Troll #2…what planet are you from? Do you think Amazon drones are going to deliver cans of Spam to people living in the remote wilderness of Alaska? Alaskan hunting is dangerous regardless of the prey but for many, survival dictates it.

      I’m confused either way, I thought all environmental extremists, at some level, wanted animals to live and humans to go extinct?

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