The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has halted the sport hunting of brown bears in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge through next May 31, 2015, because of the bears’ declining population.
The rule went into effect on September 1.
“The temporary closure to sport hunting of brown bears on the Refuge is being implemented as a resource protection measure and to ensure consistency with Refuge purposes," the Department of the Interior said in a media release. "The Service believes that documented levels of human-caused mortality of brown bears in 2014, combined with those of recent years, are causing the Kenai brown bear population to decline. Allowing additional mortality through sport hunting on the Refuge would conflict with its statutory purposes to conserve all wildlife in their natural diversity and to provide opportunity for visitors to hunt, view and photograph wildlife."
There were 582 bears in the Refuge in 2010, the USFWS said, down from an estimated 624. So far in 2014, 54 brown bears have been killed on the Kenai Peninsula, the USFWS said, 52 of them taken by hunters and the other two killed in defense of life or property. Brown bears have a lower reproduction potential than other types of bears, the USFWS said, and thus more care must be taken.