Monthly Archives: March 2013

On the hunt — Game board loosens bear, wolf, moose restrictions

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Moose numbers may not be what they once were on the Kenai Peninsula, but hunting regulations moved a small, spiked step closer to what they have been in the past, as the Alaska Board of Game enacted measures liberalizing harvest opportunities for several species and extending predator control measures on the Kenai Peninsula, during its Southcentral Region meeting March 15 to 19 in Kenai.

Moose

The board passed several measures relating to moose hunting, meant to balance harvest opportunity while protecting the diminished population.

Moose numbers in Units 15A and 15C have fluctuated over the decades but have shown consistent decline since the 1980s, largely due to limited habitat availability — particularly in 15A in the northwestern central peninsula, and also predation, road kills and hunting pressure. Two years ago the board enacted strict hunting regulations to limit the moose harvest and improve the ratios of bulls and calves to cows, with only bulls with a 50-inch-or-greater antler spread or four brow tines on one side being eligible for harvest. According to ongoing studies done by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, moose are still struggling in 15A.

“To me the most telling statistic is the declining moose abundance trend we are seeing. Not only are we well below our intensive management objective, but our population is declining annually with no sign of stabilization or growth,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation.

There’s better news in Unit 15C, south of Tustumena Lake, where moose numbers are higher and the bull-to-cow ratio has improved since 2011.

“We have information that suggests habitat is not limiting moose production in this unit to the extent that it is in 15A. Bottom line is that we’re below harvest goals but within population goals,” Vincent-Lang said.

Proposal 143 suggested loosening the hunting restriction to bulls with a 50-inch or greater antler spread, or four brow tines or a spike on one side — essentially moving some of the wiggle room in the rebuilding moose population to potential harvest.

“It’s been stated that you can’t bank moose, and I think that’s very true, particularly in 15A,” said Jeff Selinger, Kenai area wildlife manager for Fish and Game. The department recommended adoption of the amended Proposal 143.

Not all hunters want the extra wiggle room in harvest, however. Several members of the public and representatives of area Fish and Game Advisory Committees requested that the board leave the 2011 restriction in place to help the moose population continue to rebound.

“An overwhelming majority of the moose-hunting public supports leaving the restriction as it is. They’ve seen it has had a positive impact. Let’s leave it in place a good four to five years to make a big impact,” said Bob Ermold, with the Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Committee.

Board members, rather, saw the population as stable enough to support additional harvest.

“There has been public testimony asking us to retain (the current regulation). That being said, I think it’s important to retain the structure but allow opportunity to harvest a few more moose. I think that’s an appropriate step for now,” said Nate Turner, vice chair.

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Lost, found hound — Sterling sled dog loose in Kasilof finds help getting home

Photo courtesy of Ashley Irmen. Pixel the sled dog was on the lam in Kasilof, far from home.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Irmen. Pixel the sled dog was on the lam in Kasilof, far from home.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

A pixel, in digital imaging, is a term referring to a single element of a multicomponent representation.

This definition is still somewhat appropriate to a dog named Pixel, owned by Sterling musher Ashley Irmen. Alone, Pixel is just a shy, 35-pound, cream-colored husky, but when put with her kennelmates, she is a powerful part of Irmen’s sled-dog team.

But there was a glitch — Pixel’s exuberance for exercise caused her to go on the lam for nine days earlier this month, when she slipped out of her harness on a training run. Her adventure led to many ups and downs for Irmen, who wondered if she would get her dog back. But Irmen never lost hope, and her friends — aided by Cohoe Loop-area residents, where the dog was lost — never gave up the search.

“I’ve been amazed at how kind and helpful people have been,” Irmen said.

Pixel, along with another dog, came into Irmen’s life in December 2008. Irmen takes in dogs unwanted or abandoned by others for various reasons. Pixel came from the Fairbanks Animal Shelter and her adoption was facilitated by Carol Klecker and the Second Chance League, a group that works to find homes for the sled dogs that flood the Fairbanks shelter each year.

“She came pretty unsocialized,” Irmen remembered.

“Many of these sled dogs lived previous lives on short chains, with little socialization, and very limited training, and so many develop shy and skittish personality traits,” said Irmen’s friend and one of Pixel’s searchers, Jill Garnet, who also rescues sled dogs.

“Because Ashley fences her dogs and does not chain them all day long, she has worked with Pixel over the years to overcome her shyness. These days Ashley can get her to come to her during feeding and she will come inside the house,” Garnet said. “But, it’s usually on Pixel’s terms.”

The address of a pixel corresponds to its physical coordinates.

For a dog owner, few things are as frightening as their canine companion running away. When the dog is lost away from home, in an area with which it is not familiar, fear can escalate to hysteria for both owner and dog.

Irmen had loaded her dogs and driven to friend Jane Adkins’ house in the Cohoe Loop area, to run her dogs on the extensive winter trail network used by Adkins and other mushers living in those parts. What had been planned to be a day of fun turned into anything but.

“The dogs haven’t been out much this year because I’m in nursing school and working. They’re been spending most of the winter being house dogs, so their energy was pretty high and Pixel just slipped her harness,” Irmen said.

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Our Best Friends closing up shop

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. After being open for 21 years, Our Best Friends pet store, on Kalifornsky Beach Road, will soon be closing its doors, but the dog wash next door will remain open, although the owners said its future is not certain.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. After being open for 21 years, Our Best Friends pet store, on Kalifornsky Beach Road, will soon be closing its doors, but the dog wash next door will remain open, although the owners said its future is not certain.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

When he was a kid, Jody Hoskins became enamored with animals starting with a pair of pet cockatiels. His interest took flight all the way into adulthood.

His affinity for animals and caring for them grew until it was not longer just something he wanted to pursue as a pastime. He wanted it to be full time, to pay for itself and maybe even then some. With seed money he had saved up, he looked around the central Kenai Peninsula until he found a place he could afford and opened Our Best Friends pet shop.

“That was back in ’92, across the street where the small engine repair business is now. It was only a 600-square-foot place, and even though it was mostly just birds and fish at the start, the place was packed. If someone came in a wheelchair, I had to wait on them at the front door,” Hoskins said.

Over the years, the business grew steadily. In 1994 it relocated across Kalifornsky Beach Road to its current location, but even there the business grew to where the building was expanded. It finally reached the point where Hoskins had a new building built right next door, and in 2006 he turned the previous pet shop building into a self pet-wash business.

However, while all of this seemed liked a boon at the time, it may be the very thing that has now caused a bust, as Our Best Friends is preparing to close.

Jody Hoskins, the pet store owner, said he made the difficult decision to close his shop, which has been open for two decades now.

Jody Hoskins, the pet store owner, said he made the difficult decision to close his shop, which has been open for two decades now.

“I think my mistake might have been growing my business too big. It required so many employees, working so many hours to take care of all the animals properly. I thought with enough inventory I could survive anything, but maybe I should have had a little less and paid more to my mortgage and bills,” he said.

And there were a lot of animals. It is one of the things that separated his store from other small pet shops. Not only did Hoskins stock more than just dog and cat supplies, he also carried birds, reptiles, amphibians, rodents and insects.

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Russell up good music — Singer-songwriter brings Americana folk story songs

Photos by Fred Trask, courtesy of www.tomrussell.com.El Paso-based musician Tom Russell will perform in Kenai on March 31.

Photos by Fred Trask, courtesy of http://www.tomrussell.com.
El Paso-based musician Tom Russell will perform in Kenai on March 31.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For as masterful as he is with language, Tom Russell is difficult to describe. Perhaps because he creates such euphuistic wealth of imagery with such spare use of words that emptying a thesaurus over him is of no better use than pouring sugar on already ripe fruit.

“Musician” is the most recognizable hat he wears, with his 40-year career as a singer-songwriter helping establish the Americana genera with his blend of folk, Tex-Mex and cowboy music. But that brim isn’t near wide enough to cover all his facets.

“Artist” is more encompassing, accounting for his writing, painting and documentary filmmaking.

But that sounds too rarefied, too ungrounded from the realities of life, longing, work, death, drink and dirt on cowboy boots. Russell, for all his poetic phrases and vibrant paint strokes, has a master’s degree in criminology, spent a year teaching in war-torn Nigeria and gained his re-entry to the music industry through connections made while driving a taxi in Queens, New York.

Russell’s creations read more as novelistic stories than songs, and his performances are experiences more than concerts.

“I consider Tom’s stuff folk music. He’s a songwriter, too, and what’s so much fun about it is he talks about what the situation was in the background of the song. The stories are as interesting as the songs are,” said Dick Erkeneff, of Soldotna. “Tom coming up here to do a series of concerts in Alaska, I think, is fun for Alaskans to get a taste of his music. I really look forward to it.”

In addition to stops in Palmer, Talkeetna and Anchorage, Russell will perform in Kenai from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Kenai Chamber and Visitors Center, put on by Joe Ray Skrha and the Performing Arts Society. Skrha, a musician during his off hours from being an attorney, has known Russell for about eight years, having been on about 10 Roots on Rails music festivals that Russell helps organize. They’re trips on vintage streamliner trains through scenic destinations — across Canada, to the Copper Canyon in Mexico and throughout the West Coast — with musicians, historical interpreters and naturalists aboard to perform and give presentations. Skrha got hooked on Russell’s abilities and musical style, and particularly respects his lyric skill.

“I’ve worked with a lot of musicians and I don’t think there’s a better writer alive today. I don’t think there’s a better artist alive today,” Skrha said. “His descriptive writing — the words, the verses, the ways that the words interplay with meaning.”

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Art Seen: Art every wear

Photos courtesy of Michele Conti. “Beloved” is a gown constructed with red roses.

Photos courtesy of Michele Conti. “Beloved” is a gown constructed with red roses.

By Natasha Ala, for the Redoubt Reporter

Fashion-minded individuals, with an appreciation for imagination, will want to take note of a rare opportunity to experience live performance art when artist Enzina Marrari will “activate” her dresses, now on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus, in an exhibit entitled “Della Terra.” The performance will be part of a closing event for the exhibit, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 5 at KPC.

The creation of each garment was inspired by the personality and unique qualities of the individuals modeling the garments. Marrari collected objects from the environment that she felt best embodied the character of her models. Most of the materials used in the construction of the garments were gathered from the Alaska landscape by the artists.

Marrari says that some of her models were close friends and others became so in the process of creating the garments.

There is a sophisticated feel of elegance and grace to her work. In “Beloved,” she has fashioned hundreds of red roses together into an evening gown that resembles a “Breakfast at Tiffanies” ensemble reminiscent of a gown Audrey Hepburn might have worn.

“Winter Birch” consists of reconstructed canvas with birch tree charcoal painting.

“Drift” is a ballet-inspired piece incorporating driftwood.

Constructed out of stripped tree bark gathered from the beach at Point Woronzof after the big storms that blew down hundreds of trees last fall, Marrari has constructed a chic-looking ballerina outfit she titled “Drift.” Turning bark into a sophisticated garment presents not only aesthetic challenges but construction challenges, as well. Marrari has successfully mastered both, creating a classy garment that is well fabricated.

These garments were not created to be archival objects, but rather to be wearable or provisional pieces of art.

“‘Della Terra’ translates to ‘of the Earth,’ which identifies the thread of this exhibit — the ephemeral nature of the materials. The various garments are either made from material directly harvested from the Alaska landscape or reference some natural material that is largely impermanent, and as such, contains an element of unpredictability. The interest and beauty lay in the transition of the materials. As the elements dry, die or decay, the pieces change. They become reliant on the natural process of decomposition. I am fascinated by the beauty that evolves as something decomposes, deteriorates or breaks down, and this fascination has been a theme consistent throughout my career as an artist,” Marrari said of her exhibit.

A wildflower-draped.

Wildflowers for floral sweetness.

During the activation April 5, models will initiate a performance based on the concept of each of the garments. This one-night-only performance will be as ephemeral as the gowns — miss it and it will be gone. And as the closing reception for “Della Terra,” this is an opportunity for the audiences to meet the artist and view her magnificent creations up close and in person.

Natasha Ala has a bachelor’s degree in art and serves on the board of the Kenai Peninsula Art Guild. Ala also is the executive director of a Kenai Peninsula nonprofit organization.

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Almanac: Coveting refuge in Bear Cove

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a three-part story about the remarkable lives of Roxy and Harold Pomeroy. Part One, this week, introduces the Pomeroys and explains how they met and came to live in Bear Cove near the head of Kachemak Bay. Next week’s story will discuss their diverse early histories. A week later, Part Three will recount their busy lives after they became married, including Harold’s service as the first chief administrator of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Photo courtesy of Dolly Farnsworth. In November 1948, just before she left Vienna for the United States, Roxy Skobelska enjoyed a sunny afternoon with Harold Pomeroy and his large, friendly dog.

Photo courtesy of Dolly Farnsworth.
In November 1948, just before she left Vienna for the United States, Roxy Skobelska enjoyed a sunny afternoon with Harold Pomeroy and his large, friendly dog.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

A 1982 color photograph of Harold and Roxy Pomeroy, smiling widely at the camera as they share a shoulder-to-shoulder embrace, reveals two people who appear to be very much in love with each other. Even their eyes are smiling past the crow’s feet at the corners, and the joy in their expressions is impossible to miss.

At the time of the photo, Harold was about 80 — he would die in his sleep the following year — and Roxy was approaching 60. They had been married since 1955, and, by any measure, they had led full and vital lives that included California politics, the anti-Nazi underground, the fledgling government of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Anchorage psychiatric establishment.

They had met nearly four decades earlier and half a world away from the smiles in this photograph.

Harold Pomeroy, a dashing — and married — lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, had been in post-World War II Vienna, acting as secretary to the American High Commissioner during the three-power occupation of Austria, when he was introduced to his new interpreter, a Ukrainian exile named Roxolana Eurydice Skobelska.

Roxy, as he came to know her, could speak five languages — English, German, French, Russian and Ukrainian — and she could adeptly translate for nearly anyone occupying the seats of power at the table during the negotiations to decide the fate of “displaced persons” living in Austria. Roxy herself was one of these displaced persons, as was her mother.

In addition to working with Harold, Roxy also assisted his wife, Floretta, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who was in Vienna to aid Harold in his work. Both Pomeroys became close with Roxy, and it was Floretta who arranged for Roxy and her mother to travel to Bremen, Germany, and from there to board a ship filled with Jewish refugees bound for Boston.

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Science of the Seasons: Bearing study

Photo courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. A polar bear rests on a gravel bar near Kaktovik during September 2010. Until sea ice reforms in the winter, bears are relegated to shore.waiting for the sea ice to form.

Photo courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. A polar bear rests on a gravel bar near Kaktovik during September 2010. Until sea ice reforms in the winter, bears are relegated to shore.
waiting for the sea ice to form.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are an iconic creature that most of us have experienced as cuddly children’s toys or as friendly family groups interacting with penguins in Coca-Cola commercials.

Much of what we commonly see portrayed about polar bears is quite distant from reality. When viewing TV ads, I always want to point out that polar bears and penguins live worlds apart, penguins in the Antarctic and polar bears only in the Arctic. They only meet in fairy tales. I am also bothered by the anthropogenic portrayal of large family units of polar bears because in the real world they are mostly solitary predators who actively avoid contact with their relatives.

Polar bears are found throughout the northern hemisphere Arctic. There are populations in Norway, Russia, Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Most of their lives are spent as ice-pack hunters, looking for seals that have created breathing holes through the ice, or those basking on the ice. When the sea ice melts in the summer, the bears hang out along shore areas. Typically they fast during this onshore time, although they are happy to take carrion or feed on whale carcasses from Native subsistence hunts. They head back out on the pack ice to hunt seals again, as soon as the sea ice starts to reform.

In Alaska villages, like Kaktovik, polar bears are spending more and more time on land due to the earlier and more extensive summer sea ice melting. And the sea ice is reforming later in the fall than it used to, so bears are onshore longer these days. In these situations, they are not usually feeding, so social interactions are less intense.

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Plugged In: Straight photos vs. abstract are point of fact

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

The obvious purpose of taking photo gear on a trip is taking photos, preferably good photos of memorable trips and places. That’s our first topic this week.

Generally, most of us take vacation photos as memories of our trip. So it makes sense to first capture photos of ourselves and those with whom we are traveling. Too often, people tend to just take photos of impressive buildings, art works and landscapes, whose identities and locations fast fade from memory. Take photos of those impressive buildings and landscapes, of course, but be sure that you humanize them and make them real memories by including your family and, if possible, yourself. Also take some wide-angle photos to show the overall area.

Face-recognition focusing can be very useful in these situations, but be sure to reset the camera to your normal focus mode after you’ve made those people pictures. To include yourself, you’ll need either some stable spot to place your camera, set to the “Drive” feature self-time, or a helpful passer-by.

As we discussed last week, a large digital SLR-style camera may not be the best choice when traveling, even though it’s likely to have the best image quality. Hulking black cameras tend to attract unwanted attention and cause people to freeze up compared to smaller, less-obtrusive cameras, like premium compact or compact-system cameras. Digital SLR cameras are also rather cumbersome to carry around for days on end. However, regardless of which camera you take, be sure that you definitely know how to use it before departing.

Generally, using on-camera flash usually doesn’t work very well for many travel photos. The flash built into digital cameras is typically quite weak, not effective much beyond 6 or so feet, overexposing closer details, like faces, while underexposing anything in the background. To make matters worse, when you use flash, the camera closes the lens aperture more, resulting in photos that are even more underexposed and, hence, darker. Available light photography usually works better in most dim-light situations so long as you are careful.

The best available light approach for the average traveler is to turn off the flash unit and set your camera to “Auto ISO” and to the “P” Program mode. Turn on image-stabilization, brace yourself to reduce blurring from camera shake and then take your photos. If possible, set your camera use an RAW plus JPEG file format because that will give you many more correction options later if you post-process images on your computer using Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or similar programs.

Also, set your camera to “bracket” exposures, taking three or more shots each time you press the shutter-release button, with the first photo set to the camera’s calculated exposure and the two or more additional exposures set to brighter and darker exposures. One of these exposures should work well. When not doing critical work, I’ll set my bracketing exposure variation to .7EV and a total of three shots. If I need a more finely tuned exposure, then I’ll use a five-shot bracket with exposure intervals set to .3EV.

Photos courtesy of Joe Kashi. Figure 1 is the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Photos courtesy of Joe Kashi. Figure 1 is the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Figure 1 shows an early evening available light shot of the interior of the famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. This photo would not be possible with flash for many reasons. On-camera flash units do not have enough power to light up this grand space and, in any event, would overexpose nearby objects while underexposing more distant ones. We’ve posted this photo only on the Redoubt Reporter’s website because newsprint, as a low-definitional medium, simply cannot reproduce the subtle colors and shadows present even in a web resolution version of this photo.

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Board seeks moose boost — Few solutions seen to declining browse habitat

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A Kenai Peninsula hunter testifies Friday to the Alaska Board of Game during its Southcentral Region meeting held Friday through Tuesday in Kenai.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A Kenai Peninsula hunter testifies Friday to the Alaska Board of Game during its Southcentral Region meeting held Friday through Tuesday in Kenai.

The Alaska Board of Game worked its way through the Kenai Peninsula portion of its agenda Tuesday, liberalizing hunting and trapping opportunities on moose, wolves and bears.

The following are measures regarding moose adopted at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Proposal 143 — Modify the bag limit for moose to one bull per year with an antler spread of 50 inches or greater, or a spike or four brow tines on one side in Game Management Units 7 and 15. The season will stay the same — Aug. 10 to 17 for bow hunting and Aug. 20 to Sept. 20 for the general hunt. The requirement that antlers be sealed by a department representative within 10 days also is retained, except in the Placer River/Placer Creek permit hunt, which is open to retention of any bulls. The proposal also adds a definition of a spike as “antlers of a bull moose with only one tine on at least one side; male calves are not spike bulls.”
  • Proposal 147 was adopted, lowering the intensive management population objective for moose in Unit 15A from a range of 3,000 to 3,500 to a range of 2,000 to 2,900, and lowering the intensive management harvest objective for moose in 15A from a range of 180 to 350 to a range of 120 to 290. The proposal retains Fish and Game’s ability to conduct aerial shooting of wolves in Units 15A and 15C as a measure of predator control to benefit moose populations, although this has not been implemented since the board first OK’d aerial wolf kills at its meeting in 2011. This proposal also approves allowing Fish and Game to employ or contract with trappers to target wolves and increase their harvest within the established wolf-trapping season and related regulations, as another measure of predator control.
  • Proposal 148 reauthorizes the antlerless moose season in a portion of Unit 15C — the roughly 100-square-mile bench area around Homer.
  • Proposal 150 failed. It would have allowed the use of motorized vehicles to retrieve harvested moose meat during certain hours — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and during the “dark of night” — in the Lower Kenai Controlled Use Area.
  • Proposal 151 failed. It would have reinstituted a closure of the Palmer Creek/Lower Resurrection Creek areas in Unit 7 to moose hunting. The area, near Hope, will remain open to moose hunting.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Thirty years ago, moose on the Kenai Peninsula were legendary for their size and abundance. Now, however, it appears increasingly likely that those historic days are, indeed, history, as land and wildlife managers wrestle with measures to boost the dwindled ungulate population.

In the halcyon days, the peninsula’s moose population was estimated at around 4,000. Nowadays, it’s far less than that. A recent census, conducted just a few weeks ago by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, estimates 1,600 moose in Game Management Unit 15A, covering 1,300 square miles of the northwestern Kenai Peninsula. That’s down from about 2,000 in 2008, and that, in turn, is about 40 percent less than census estimates in the 1990s. Just four moose were harvested by hunters in 15A last year, and just four the previous year, down from the once-typical 350 to 360 a year. That’s in part due to the smaller population, and in part due to decreased hunter participation after the Alaska Board of Game enacted stepped-up hunting restrictions in 2011 to protect the population.

The Board of Game met in Kenai from Friday through Tuesday to consider proposals covering Game Management Units in Southeast, Cordova, Kodiak, the Anchorage area and the Kenai Peninsula. Nine proposals were submitted regarding moose on the peninsula, aimed at finding a balance between bolstering the population with the hope of increasing hunter opportunity.

The proposed changes are largely incremental — measured tweaks to conditions and regulations, which, if results come as intended, would effect incremental changes to the population. But the biggest contributing factor to the decline in moose population is far more substantial, than incremental, in scale.

Moose are not werewolves, yet there is believed to be a silver-bullet solution to the most significant problem of their decline. What’s needed, say land and wildlife managers, is fire, but not just any fire. This would be the Goldilocks of wildland fire — hot enough to burn down to mineral soil but not too hot so as to burn out of control, widespread enough to regenerate tens of thousands of acres of forest that has matured beyond the point of providing good moose browse, yet not so big that it poses too big a threat to human health, habitation, development and transportation, and occurring under just the right conditions and timing so as to not overtax available firefighting resources.

That solution is proving to be as mythical as werewolves.

“The Kenai has had harvest well in excess of 1,200 moose alone, historically, and you’re going to hear from a lot of folks who have been here a long time and remember the good old days and want those days back,” said Ted Spraker, chair of the Board of Game and retired Kenai-area Fish and Game wildlife biologist, in starting off the meeting Friday.

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Bounty on sea otters? Legislation would offer $100 per pelt to shrink species numbers

Redoubt Reporter file photo. A sea otter bobs in the surf out of Seward. Otters are voracious eaters and are devastating the shellfish industry in Southeast.

Redoubt Reporter file photo. A sea otter bobs in the surf out of Seward.

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

A Republican from Sitka filed a bill proposing to place a $100 bounty on sea otters, a population deemed so out of control it could be responsible for millions of dollars lost to the seafood industry.

Sen. Bert Stedman sponsored Senate Bill 60, which, if passed, would be used as a management tool. The bill had its first hearing Wednesday in Juneau. Since the bill isn’t restricted to boundaries, it could impact other parts of Alaska, as well, like Kachemak Bay, where a healthy otter population thrives.

The senator writes in his sponsor statement that in Southeast, the growing sea otter population is devastating the shellfish biomass.

“Sea otters are the only marine mammals without blubber. As a result, the animals have a high metabolism and require large amounts of food to survive,” it states.

As justification, the focus is on the voracious appetites possessed by otters. The sponsor statement inventories the otter diet as consisting mainly of crabs, clams, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, shrimp and abalone. Sea otters can consume up to 25 percent of their body weight per day. One male otter can consume up to 7,300 pounds of food per year.

As of 2012, it is estimated that there are 21,500 sea otters in Southeast, up significantly from previous years. Using an average body weight of 65 pounds and a daily food intake of 25 percent of body weight, a sea otter population of 21,500 animals will consume over 127 million pounds of shellfish per year, he estimates.

“To put that into perspective, the entire 2010 Southeast Alaska harvest in the dive and dungeness crab fisheries was 5.9 million pounds,” Stedman said in his sponsor statement.

If unchecked, the population, “inevitably threatens the future of dive fisheries and crab fisheries in Southeast; jeopardizing hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic activity for the region,” he wrote.

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Temporary stay, permanent links — Foreign exchange program allows transfer of ideas, cultures, cuisines, along with students

Photo courtesy of AFS on the Kenai PeninsulaCem Solak, of Turkey, is enjoying his time as an exchange student in Alaska, even though it’s far from where he originally expected to be placed.

Photo courtesy of AFS on the Kenai Peninsula
Cem Solak, of Turkey, is enjoying his time as an exchange student in Alaska, even though it’s far from where he originally expected to be placed.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The numbers tell it all. According to the U.S. State Department, only a third of Americans have a passport, and that’s a peak in passport numbers since the 2009 implementation of increased regulations requiring passports for travel between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

This lack of travel abroad can lead to fewer firsthand meetings and interactions with people and cultures different from those in America. But as the world grows more interconnected through technology, so, too, does the need to understand these differences.

This is especially true for youth, who may one day be interacting with business associates from foreign countries and cultures. The ability to speak another language, understand a different cultural context and navigate diverse perspectives globally are skills needed to succeed in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.

That’s where AFS-USA comes in. Formerly the American Field Service, this nonprofit organization has been offering international exchange programs around the world for more than 65 years. Teens being immersed in a foreign culture benefit in myriad ways, not the least of which is dispelling ridiculous stereotypes. Few places is this more true than Alaska.

“Before I came here I didn’t have too much time for researching about Alaska and I was thinking I’ll see igloos and polar bears, but after I came here and saw everything is civilized, it isn’t as bad as I thought,” said Cem Solak, an exchange student from Turkey.

The AFS program works both ways when it comes to dissipating preconceived notions about people and their cultures, according to local AFS organizer Eileen Bryson.

“The YES scholarship program (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange) builds bridges of international understanding, especially between Americans and people in countries with significant Muslim populations. The Flex scholarship program (Future Leader’s Exchange) builds future U.S. relations with the countries of the former Soviet Union based upon bridges of personal friendship and mutual understanding. The core students are from all the other countries who have AFS programs. In all, there are 90 countries who send students to the United States, including the YES and Flex programs,” she said.

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Common Ground: Peculiarity of Patrick’s method

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham.Patrick and William show off part of their ice-fishing catch.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham.
Patrick and William show off part of their ice-fishing catch.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

The chances of catching fish were very, very small that day. So small, it was safe to say it could not be done. Not by me. According to my calculations, determined by faithfully logging all of my fishing occasions in a weather-resistant journal, then entering the data into fields in a database, which could be manipulated to determine patterns of success or failure, a fish could not be caught when the wind came out of the east.

Still, my nephews wanted to go fishing, and it wasn’t my fault that they picked a day with an easterly wind. Fishing parents often have contingency plans for the inevitable problem of disinterest. Plenty of snacks and a Plan B — sledding or ice skating, for instance. Under no circumstances was the Plan B to include matches or fire-building, their mothers told me.

“Not after last time.”

Since last time, all plans required clearance, so my Plan B was to bring hot chocolate. I forgot the hot chocolate.

Luckily, my 8-year-old nephew, Patrick, had only one plan. Within seconds of arriving at the lake he dropped his line down one of the holes I’d drilled. Before his dad could comment on the weather or his cousin, 9-year-old William, could choose a lure from the tackle box, Patrick was fighting his first fish. I tested the wind direction. It hadn’t changed.

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Filed under fishing, humor, Uncategorized, winter