Two proposals to allow bear hunting in populated areas of Chugach State Park were unanimously approved by the Alaska Board of Game late Tuesday afternoon.

Board members approved two black bear hunts, one in an area near McHugh Creek, the other in the Upper Campbell Creek Drainage Area which is adjacent to Powerline Pass.

Board Chairman Ted Spraker said the public has raised concerns about the number of bears that live close to Anchorage. He said the hunts were proposed in part as a way to reduce conflicts between bears and humans, both in town and out on the trails.

"One of the ways that we may be able to reduce some of that concern is to open up a limited amount of hunting in these areas," Spraker said. " I know there's a lot of people who hike these trails and if we could reduce the numbers of bears it could make it a little safer for hiking conditions."

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Dave Battle said the drawing permit hunts would allow for up to 20 bears to be taken in each area, using shotguns or muzzle-loaded firearms. The hunts would be held on weekdays only, between Sept. 1 and May 31, and hunters would be required to take an orientation and proficiency test.

But the hunts still need approval by Chugach State Park before they could occur. Park Superintendent Kurt Hensel questioned the need for more hunting when 80 percent of the park is already open to black bear hunting. He cited safety concerns about approving bear hunting in areas where people recreate and said the proposal would require careful study.

If the hunts do receive approval from Hensel, Battle said the earliest they could begin would be the fall of 2020.

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