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Bacon, Doughnuts Pose New Health Risks for Alaska's Bears


“Interior Dept. moves to allow Alaska bear hunting with doughnuts, bacon,” announces an NBC News headline. “These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — had been outlawed on federal lands in 2015 under Obama.”

That’s how the network introduces an Associated Press story. NBC is running this news under the heading, “Trump Effect” and the story elaborates that the new rule will allow the use of “spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens” and also “motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.”

Do caribou prefer to be shot on shore? Of course that’s just one of the fascinating questions raised by this report. “Did the rules really single out bacon and donuts?,” asks New York Daily News opinion editor Josh Greenman on Twitter.

The new rule published this week by the Interior Department doesn’t mention such foods. However, the 2015 Obama administration rule that is being repealed did say that the state of Alaska permitted “harvesting brown bears over bait (which often includes dog food, bacon/meat grease, donuts, and other human food sources)”.

The point of the 2015 Obama rule was to override the state’s decisions in this area. The feds and the state had disagreed over the best rules to manage populations of various species and there’s a larger disagreement over who has the authority to make such decisions. A majority in the U.S. Senate seems to believe it should be up to Alaska and the new Interior rule defers to the state.

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Depending on the location and the time of year, Alaska allows licensed hunters to use “biodegradable materials” to attract bears. Such bait may include small animal carcasses and in some locations, fish parts are also permissible.

It’s not clear why using a donut as bait would be more cruel than tempting a bear with rotting fish. Perhaps the latter example is less compelling because it reminds the reader that while bears may not be as scary as MS-13, they’re still animals.

Then there’s the question of whether shooting an animal becomes any less humane if there is bait involved in the hunt. This relates to the conundrum of the swimming caribou and of course the bears have not commented on the issue.

One might also ask—if the hunting methods permitted in Alaska really are cruel and inhumane—why Barack Obama’s government waited until late in his second term to ban them. The fact that the rules did not ban hunting but rather certain ways in which people hunt are probably why the 2015 rule attracted very little attention outside of Alaska. But it was a big story up north.

The Anchorage Daily News reported:

“These regulations will have a noticeable effect on the lives of Alaskans, particularly those Alaskans living a subsistence lifestyle,” said Bruce Dale, director of Wildlife Conservation for the state. “The final rule implements yet another level of regulation that will reduce Alaskans’ ability to provide food for their families and retain their culture and heritage.

“It’s a further erosion of the state’s right to manage its resources,” he added. “There’s no biological problem here. If they’re banning things that barely ever happen, what’s next?”

The rule change occurred shortly after another Obama decision on Alaska that was a much bigger story nationwide. In August of 2015 the Interior Department officially renamed Mount McKinley to Denali, as it has been known to generations of native Alaskans.

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But many native Alaskans were not happy with the hunting rule that followed. Here’s more from the Anchorage Daily News:

“There were numerous groups in Alaska, some who rarely agree with each other, that were all opposed this,” Dale added. “That’s gotta tell you something.” Among them were the Alaska Outdoor Council, the Alaska Federation of Natives and various subsistence resource councils.

Does it tell us that the 2015 hunting restrictions were cruel and inhumane?

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(Lisa Rossi helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Michele Schiesser, Greg Israelsen, Rod Pennington, Irene DeBlasio, Tony Lima, Richard Helfrich and Jackie Harty.)

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