First-ever black bear hunt to happen at McHugh Creek

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 7:44 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Visitors to McHugh Creek in Chugach State Park may notice the small sign that announces a black bear hunt beginning Thursday, Oct. 1.

The area approved for the month-long hunt begins about a half-mile from the upper parking lot where hikers and hunters could potentially mingle. It’s an idea that doesn’t sit well with nature writer Bill Sherwonit.

“My stance, and the stance of many people opposed to the hunt, is that there should be no black bear hunt at all,” said Sherwonit.

Sherwonit is one of many voices that spoke against the hunt approved by the Alaska Board of Game last year. The director of Chugach State Park and members of the Citizens Advisory Board for the park also disapproved. But Sherwonit has focused his frustration on Alaska State Parks Director Ricky Gease. Gease approved the permits that allowed the hunt to go forward despite the concerns.

“That makes the fact the hunt is happening even more exasperating and dispiriting to many of us,” said Sherwonit.

Gease said approving the hunt was not his decision but the Board of Game’s.

“What our jurisdiction is, is can this hunt be done safely,” said Gease.

He also said the hunt has been modified from the original proposal to make it safer. For example, the permitted hunt is for just three hunters, who will use shotguns or muzzleloaders, no rifles. Hunting must be done on weekdays, during daylight hours only.

“In addition, the hunters have to check in and check out when they enter the park. If they fire their weapon and also if they make a kill,” said Gease.

Passing a hunter proficiency test administered by Fish and Game that includes marksmanship is also a requirement. Gease pointed to a long-held moose hunt in November in the same area with the same restrictions in which there had been “no incidents” with hunters, as another sign the bear hunt could be done safely.

But Sherwonit said he doesn’t think the moose hunt is justification for a new bear hunt in the area, pointing out the majority of the park is already open to bear hunting.

“It would be nice to have some valleys, some drainages where bears are not hunted,” he said.

And it may be that not much hunting will take place. Fish and Game said one of the hunters failed their proficiency test while another has yet to complete it. It’s possible there could be just one person able to hunt black bear in the area this year.

“To me, that’s one hunter too many,” said Sherwonit.

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