FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Wildlife biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently killed almost 90 bears and delivered nearly four tons of bear meat to residents in eight villages in western interior Alaska as part of a predator control program designed to increase the number of moose in the area.
Fish and Game staff shot 89 bears — 84 black bears and five grizzlies — along the Kuskokwim River during a two-week program that began on May 13. The area is about 300 miles southwest of Fairbanks.
Biologists shot the bears from a helicopter in a 530-square mile area of state land east of Aniak.
The goal of the program was to reduce the number of bears in the area as low as possible, agency spokeswoman Cathie Harms said. It was the first year of a two-year predator control program approved by the Alaska Board of Game last spring at the request of local residents concerned about low moose numbers.
The nearly 8,000 pounds of meat from the bears, valued at approximately $80,000, was distributed to villagers in Aniak, Chuathbaluk, Crooked Creek, Lime Village, Kalskag, Red Devil, Sleetmute and Stony River, Harms said.
The bears ranged in age from yearlings to mature adults. Biologists avoided shooting sows with cubs of the year. Hides from larger bears were sent to Fairbanks and will be sold at the annual fur auction in Fairbanks in March.
Removal of the bears, which cost approximately $230,000, should boost survival of moose calves in the area, Harms said.
“Bears are most efficient at taking young moose, so calves being born now will have a much higher chance of survival,” she said. “Once calves have survived a year, they’re not as vulnerable.”