Brown Bear Hunting Opens Up on the Kenai

Shaylon Cochran


     Big game hunters on the Kenai will be in a race to see who can bag one of a limited number of brown bears this fall. For the past five years,  hunting licenses have been issued through a drawing.  At the Alaska Board of Game’s meeting in January, it was decided to manage the hunt under a registration and permit system. 
     “People can come in and sign up and get a permit and go bear hunting,” said Jeff Selinger, Kenai Area Biologist with the Department of Fish and Game.  ”And if we reach a certain objective, we will close the season,” he said.
     That objective is ten female brown bears of breeding age.
     “Our current management objectives are for all human-caused mortalities, including DLP’s (defense of life and property), automobile accidents, agency killings, whatever,” Selinger said.  ”(Those) will not exceed ten reproductive-aged females in any one calendar year.”
     To date, one brown bear has been reported killed due to human cause, leaving the harvest count at nine.  The season begins October 1st and runs through the end of November, or until hunters reach the magic number.  The new system that the Board of Game decided on in January does away entirely with the spring season that had been in place under the drawing system.
     “We didn’t want to exceed ten reproductive-aged females, and if we were under that number in the fall, they could hunt the fall portion.  If we were over… they could hunt the spring season under the drawing system,” Selinger said.
     The season will be open in Game Management Units 15 and 7 on the Kenai Peninsula and is open to both residents and non-residents, though non-residents must be accompanied by a guide.  Tags are $25 and must be presented when applying for a permit.  Those permits will only be available at the Department of Fish and Game offices in Soldotna and Homer.
     The Department uses these hunts to gather data, as well, Selinger said.  Successful hunts must be reported within three days of the kill and the bear must be delivered to Fish and Game offices in Anchorage, Soldotna or Homer within five days to be sealed.
     “You bring in the hide and the skull and we’ll process it,” Selinger said.  ”We’ll probably take a small hide sample and a take a tooth out of the skull.  It’s important to have the hide completely separated from the skull,” he said.  ”Then we place a seal on the hide and seal on the skull and you’re good to go. It’s a pretty non-invasive process.”
     Non-successful hunts should be reported by permit holders, as well.  Selinger says the department can learn a great deal from hunters simply describing their efforts in bagging a brown bear  He said they want to know where and when people went to hunt and how they got there which will all be used to develop future management plans.
     You can pick up tags at the Fish and Game offices in Homer or Soldotna now.  Finally, Selinger reminds hunters to contact Fish and Game before going into the field to determine the status of the season and make sure the management objective has not already been reached.