FAIRBANKS -- In a close vote, the Alaska Board of Game approved shooting grizzly bears if they show up at certain black bear bait stations in Interior Alaska.
The board voted 4-3 to allow hunters to shoot grizzly bears at the stations next season in three parts of the Interior.
It is legal in Alaska to bait and shoot black bears, which are more common than grizzlies.
State wildlife officials have promoted baiting black bears as a way to boost moose populations in areas where predation is thought to be driving down numbers.
However, it had been illegal to shoot grizzly bears that showed up at bait stations, something hunters say has been happening more frequently.
The board's vote allows permitted hunters to shoot grizzly bears over bait in game management units west of Nenana and in the middle Yukon River area.
The board also voted to allow the baiting of grizzly bears in game management units near Tok, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Friday.
Board chairman Cliff Judkins of Wasilla said as long as shooting grizzlies over bait doesn't cause a conservation concern, he doesn't see anything wrong with it.
Hunters will be required to salvage the hide and meat of the bears. They will not be allowed to take cubs or sows accompanied by cubs.
"If there are plenty of brown bears to harvest, and there are people that want to harvest them, let them," Judkins said.
Not only does it provide more opportunity for hunters, but "it's also probably going to save a few moose calves," he said.
Not all board members share Judkins' views.
Ted Spraker of Soldotna, who voted against the proposals, said grizzly bears are different from black bears.
"You bait black bears for meat; that's not usually the case with brown bears," said Spraker, a retired state wildlife biologist.
Board member Nate Turner, a big game hunting guide who lives on the Kantishna River, joined Spraker in voting against the baiting proposals for two of the units, as did Stosh Hoffman of Bethel.
Turner said he wouldn't have a problem with baiting grizzlies in areas where it would benefit the moose populations, but statistics from the Department of Fish and Game didn't indicate that was the case in those two areas.
Correction: A summary of this story posted earlier said this was the first time shooting of grizzlies at bait stations has been approved. Grizzly baiting was temporarily OK'd in 2005 for a state predator-control program near Tok.