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Trump administration eases restrictions on killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens in Alaska

Trophy hunting: Killing or conservation?
Trophy hunting: Killing or conservation? 24:56

Hunters in Alaska will soon be allowed to use bacon grease and doughnuts to bait brown bears, spotlights to shoot hibernating mother bears and cubs in their dens and motorboats to shoot swimming caribou — thanks to a reversal of Obama-era guidelines by the Trump administration this week. 

Effective July 9, hunting on nature preserves in Alaska will once again be controlled by the state rather than the federal government. The new rule, published Tuesday in the Federal Register, reverses hunting bans put in place in all National Parks by the Obama administration in 2015 following years of pleading by environmental and wildlife protection groups.

The rules, which many see as cruel and unnecessary, allow baiting of brown and black bears with human food, hunting of bears in their dens using artificial light, killing of wolves and coyotes in their dens during the season when mothers wean their young, using dogs to hunt bears and hunting of swimming caribou from boats. These actions were banned by Obama federally despite being permitted by the state of Alaska. 

The Trump administration has been working to reverse the ban for years, stemming from 2017 orders to expand recreational activities on public lands from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., is an avid trophy hunter and has long championed the expansion of hunting rights on federally protected lands. 

Lawmakers and native tribes in Alaska praised the law change, saying it puts the power back in the hands of the state.

The reversal "confirms the sovereign authorities the state has with respect to managing wildlife on our national preserve lands. This is a step towards acknowledging Alaska's rightful control over fish and wildlife resources all across the state," Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy said last month.

"The previous rule was implemented without adequate tribal consultation, in disregard to rural Alaska's dependence on wild food resources," stated Victor Joseph, Chief and Chairman of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which represents 42 tribes. "The previous limitations enacted in 2015 threatened our way of life and our centuries-long sustainable management practices."

Humane Society argues against trophy hunting 07:45

However, the reversal is seen as a major setback for animal advocacy groups. The Humane Society of the United States described the trophy hunting tactics as "horribly cruel." 

"I would say the vast majority of people did believe this was a controversial move and were almost entirely opposed to us lifting the ban," National Park Service spokesman Peter Christian told Reuters

"By opening season on the animals it's supposed to protect just to appease a few trophy hunters, the agency — and this administration — have not only shown themselves to be extremely poor stewards of our public lands, they have let down a majority of Americans who would never sanction such cruelty against our native wildlife," Kitty Block and Sara Amundson from the Humane Society wrote in a blog post.  

"Shooting hibernating mama and baby bears is not the conservation legacy that our national parks are meant to preserve and no way to treat or manage park wildlife," National Parks Conservation Association President and CEO Theresa Pierno said in a statement

"The Trump administration has shockingly reached a new low in its treatment of wildlife," Jamie Rappaport Clark, the president and CEO of the Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. "Allowing the killing of bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens is barbaric and inhumane."

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