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​Alaska latest state to seek ban on drone use by hunters

Published time: March 27, 2014 00:18
AFP Photo / Robert MacPherson

AFP Photo / Robert MacPherson

Alaska is poised to become the third US state to ban use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, by hunters, as several other states have taken steps to curb use of the technology when in pursuit of wild game.

On March 17, the Alaska Board of Game approved a regulatory proposal that would prohibit hunters from using unmanned aerial vehicles to locate and track game. The state’s Department of Law is expected to approve the rule on July 1, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers proposed the rule change to the Game Board after hearing of a drone-assisted moose kill in the state in 2012. The practice is not widespread, but the troopers say the increasingly cheap and advanced technology has the capability to transform the state’s game hunting landscape.

"Under hunting regulations, unless it specifically says that it's illegal, you're allowed to do it," Capt. Bernard Chastain, operations commander for the Wildlife Troopers, said. "What happens a lot of times is technology gets way ahead of regulations, and the hunting regulations don't get a chance to catch up for quite a while."

Last month, Montana banned drone use in hunting, as did Colorado in January. Idaho and Wisconsin include drones in their current prohibitions against “use of aircraft to hunt, to harass hunters, or to disturb wildlife,” according to Fox News.

In addition, hunting groups in New Mexico, Vermont, and Wyoming have started efforts to outlaw drone use.

“We feel that the use of drones to aid in hunting is inappropriate and overwhelming technology that would essentially undermine the concept of fair-chase hunting,” Eric Nuse, leader of the initiative in Vermont, told Fox.

Nuse - former executive director Orion, The Hunter’s Institute - echoed the Alaska troopers’ rationale for pushing a drone ban despite limited evidence at present of hunting use.

“We want to make sure it doesn’t get a foothold,” he said. “We see this as a great chance for abuse and before people have invested a lot of money in this technology let’s speak up first.”

Colorado’s law was spurred by hunters who do not want drones to give sportsmen an unfair technological advantage.

“We prefer not to see regulations as a general rule,” said Tim Brass, a spokesman for Colorado’s Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Sportsmen have a tradition of policing themselves. This was part of our effort to do that.”

Brass said a YouTube video of a drone tracking a moose in Norway encouraged him to pursue a drone rule in Colorado.

“Hunting should remain an activity of skill and woodcraft, not just technology,” Brass’ group said after the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission voted to ban drones. The group added that drones could have legitimate uses for agriculture and search and rescue missions, for example.

Related, in December, Fox highlighted a Louisiana exterminator who uses a drone to hunt feral pigs that have severely damaged crops and wildlife throughout the South.