“Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology.” High school teachers probably didn’t dig that 1960 hit love song by Sam Cooke, but romantic teenagers loved giving love a higher value than algebra, trigonometry, science books or the French they took. Don’t we all?
But most people don’t know anything about wildlife management (though it was never a subject in school). Now, Donald Trump has lifted the ban on killing wolves and grizzly bears in their dens in Alaska. People are upset. They think the President was overstepping his bounds. Or worse — he is enabling sick hunters to ravage Alaska’s precious wildlife.
Neither is true. So, what’s going on? Does the President run the outdoors? Do we elect presidents for their wildlife management policies? No. And no. Yet his action raises lots of questions.
Who decides what the rules are, or what they should be? Is it OK to kill animals in their dens in Alaska? How can Trump let hunters do that? And how could President Obama make the rule back in 2015 that Trump revoked this month?
Say what? This issue has a history? Yes, it does. That’s one reason things aren’t always as they seem. What you need to know is that no President (Obama, Trump, whoever the next one is) gets to make hunting and wildlife management decisions he likes. Wildlife management is mainly the responsibility of the states. The states make the rules. They set seasons and bag limits, decide which animals can be hunted, and how. Except for migratory waterfowl and endangered species, Federal officials have little to say about the issue. And that’s the way it should be.
So, all Trump did was return the responsibility to Alaska that Obama took from it in 2015.
Does that mean hunters are ready to invade Alaska’s bear dens? Of course not. Hunting is strictly controlled in the “the Last Frontier.” If you’ve ever hunted there you probably know that Alaska has more hunting regulations than we have back here in New York and Pennsylvania. Regulations do not allow hunters to willy-nilly kill darling little wolf and bear cubs in their dens.
State wildlife officials must keep wildlife in balance — various species balanced with each other and with their habitat. And in a land with extreme weather and geography, that’s not easy. Winter brutally kills lots of animals, and in a difficult winter predators get a bigger share. So, to protect animals from precipitous plunges in population, it’s sometimes necessary to take extra measures to control predators. It’s a wildlife management issue, not a boon for heartless hunters.
“Oh,” but some say, “He did this for his trophy hunting son, Don Jr!” No, he didn’t. Don doesn’t want to kill a bear cub any more than you do.
I’ve hunted Alaska. I’ve been in areas with high brown bear populations. I’ve seen the effects of high wolf populations on wildlife. I have met plenty of Alaskan hunters, and know some who hunt Alaska regularly. And I can tell you, I’ve never met a single hunter who wants to kill bear cubs or wolf pups in their dens. Not one.
When Trump cancelled President Obama’s 2015 order, he was doing what a President should do — make sure wildlife policies stay where they should be, in the hands of the states.
There is one other factor in the President’s action. He has also rescinded the Obama prohibition against killing caribou while they’re swimming. That meets the historic subsistence hunting needs of Alaskan natives in remote villages. It’s not a favor to ruthless great white hunters.
If we could add a line to Sam Cooke’s song, you can now say “Don’t know much about wildlife management.” But you do know something, and unless you’re a teenage romantic who wants to risk hugging fuzzy baby grizzlies, you know that wildlife management is a state issue, because Presidents don’t know much about wildlife management either.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.