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What Do People in Anchorage
Think About Wildlife?

by David Fulton, ADF&G

Webmaster's note:  This article is from the August, 1998 issue of the Alaska Hunting Bulletin published by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.  Dr. David Fulton is a wildlife planner working for the Division of Wildlife Conservation in Anchorage.

If you are a hunter concerned about the image and support of hunting among the general public, you will be refreshed by some of the results of ADF&G's 1997 Anchorage wildlife and wildlife user survey.

It turns out that most Anchorage residents think hunting is a safe and positive activity. Furthermore, they believe it helps people enjoy wildlife and nature.

This is just one finding of a survey conducted for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game last year. We used this survey to collect information about wildlife issues in Anchorage and we will be using it to help develop a wildlife management plan for the Anchorage area.

ahb6-1.gif (36932 bytes)We asked a representative sample of Anchorage residents six questions to see what they think of hunting (Figure 1). Overall, 69% felt hunting is generally good, while only 20% felt hunting is generally bad. The remaining 11% did not feel strongly one way or the other.

A large majority of Anchorage residents said they support using and managing wildlife (75%). Almost all residents agreed that learning and teaching about wildlife (97%), conserving wildlife now and for future generations (96%), and seeing wildlife on outdoor recreation trips (96%) is important to them.

Please visit our sponsorsNine out of ten agreed having wildlife in their local neighborhood was important to them. Most residents enjoyed watching moose (96%) and geese (92%) in the Anchorage area, but they also reported conflicts with wildlife. Common conflicts include moose eating gardens or trees (89 %) and vehicles swerving or braking to avoid hitting moose (72 %) or geese (53 %). One out of four residents reported being charged by moose in Anchorage, either on a trail or in their neighborhood.

ahb6-2.gif (45700 bytes)About one in five (22%) reported seeing a bear in their Anchorage neighborhood. On the other hand, few people reported actual problems with bears eating garbage (5%), damaging property (2%), or injuring or killing pets (1%) (Figure 2). Despite the common occurrence of conflicts, fewer than one in four residents felt there are too many incidents of moose eating gardens or trees. In contrast, while few have had aggressive encounters with moose or bears in Anchorage, about one-third believed there are too many moose or bear encounters in neighborhoods or on trails in Anchorage.

ahb6-3.gif (57131 bytes)Most residents felt there are too many moose deaths from vehicle accidents (60%) and too many incidents of bears getting into garbage (58%) (Figure 3). One out of three felt there are too many moose, black bears, and brown bears in Anchorage.

In contrast, almost six out of ten believed there are too many Canada geese. About 60 percent of residents would accept public hunts to reduce numbers of moose, black bears, brown bears, and geese near Anchorage. Slightly more than one-third felt such hunts are unacceptable.

Opinions were more divided about having wildlife authorities destroy moose and bears in Anchorage to reduce populations. Slightly more than half (53%) accepted such actions for moose while 44% found them unacceptable. Just under half (48%) would accept these actions for brown and black bears, while 46% found them unacceptable. Responses to questions about a proposed moose hunt in Chugach State Park indicated about half (51%) of Anchorage residents would support the hunt, a third (34%) would oppose it, and 15% were unsure. People supporting the hunt believed it would:

    • reduce accidents involving moose;
    • reduce potentially dangerous encounters with moose;
    • keep moose from being overpopulated; and
    • provide more hunting opportunities for Anchorage hunters.

People opposing the hunt believed it would:

    • generate a lot of conflict between people;
    • cost a lot to administer;
    • prevent non-hunters from using the park; and
    • have the potential to injure someone.

These results highlight issues that must be addressed if urban wildlife populations are managed through public hunts.

We collected this information by way of a mailed survey that we sent to a randomly selected sample of Anchorage voters. The residents we selected returned a total of 971 surveys for an overall response rate of 59% -- a good response rate for a survey of this type. There is a 4% margin of error on the survey results.

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