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Alaska Representative Claims 10% Of Darted Polar Bears Are Killed

/ Post by Katie Billing of Polar Bears International

Richard Mauer writer for Anchorage Daily News describes a situation in Juneau, Alaska that happened this past March. According to his article, Alaska State Representative Eric Feige claims the federal government is responsible for the deaths of many polar bears. The Alaska House majority press office quotes Feige stating, “ If the polar bears are so threatened, then why do we kill 10 percent of the ones we dart and tag for scientific management purposes?” Rep. Feige provided no scientific data as a source for his information. He simply states, “…I happen to know a guy that flies the Super Cub that does the polar bear surveys along the coast…Its conversations with those people, folks actually doing the surveys, that told me 10 percent died.”

However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has darted around 1,220 bears since 2003 as a part of their research program. Out of the darted bears only two have been killed. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman, Bruce Woods of Anchorage stated, “Since the late 1990’s we’ve been using Telazol when darting bears, which has proven more effective and safe for the animals than drugs used previously…The bears are darted so they can be handled/examined safely.”

Woods also mentioned that 100-1,000 bears a year are darted in the southern Beaufort Sea area since 2003. 220 bears were darted in the Chukchi Sea region. He confirms that the lives of two bears ended and it was not the result of darting. One bear drowned in 2005 and the second bear was accidentally asphyxiated in a sling in 2009.

Rebecca Noblin, an attorney in Anchorage with the Center for Biological Diversity added, “I would be shocked it would be anywhere near 10 percent…I haven’t heard of any incidents in recent years where polar bears have been killed by the (U.S Fish and Wildlife Services) – and we would hear if that happened. They’d have to report it.”

It appears that Representative Eric Feige may have his facts wrong. His only source of information on the matter comes from the pilots he is acquainted with. The next time a state representative is going to blame the government on something such as, “Federal scientists are killing polar bears,” they should check to make sure they have data to support their claims. Either way, I firmly believe that the problem of dying polar bears lies within the melting Arctic sea ice caused by greenhouse gases not by the hands of researchers determined to protect the species. I expect the Alaskan government to remain focused by determining solutions to protect Arctic species. In addition, I expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate the claim and provide scientific data denying the statistic Rep.Feige proposed. Hopefully everybody can get back to the main problem at hand, instead of bickering about a possibility that feds are killing polar bears though scientific darting.