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Alaska Will Ban Hunting Animals with Drones

Up in the Last Frontier, using drones to track game simply isn't sporting.
Okay, finding a moose here would definitely be easier with a drone. Image: Kevin/Flickr

Alaska, premier destination for big game hunting, thinks hunters should track animals without the aid of flying machines, and later this year will institute a ban on using drones while hunting.

The hard part of hunting isn't always the actual act of shooting some woodland creature; it's finding said animal in the first place. For big game hunters in Alaska and elsewhere, that means flying into backcountry and trekking all over until one's target of choice is found.

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But hunters pay guides big sums to track down big bucks, and game isn't always to find. To help guarantee success, guides will use any tool at their disposal, even if that means flying a camera-equipped drone around for surveillance.

According to a report in the Anchorage Daily News (hat tip to The Verge), the Alaska Board of Game recently approved a bill banning the use of drones for hunting, which will go into when new regulations are impemented later this year. The change was supported by Alaska Wildlife Troopers, which says that drone usage in hunting isn't extremely popular, but appears to becoming more so as drone systems become cheaper.

"Under hunting regulations, unless it specifically says that it's illegal, you're allowed to do it," Wildlife Troopers Capt. Bernard Chastain told the Daily News. "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."

Chastain's statement is fairly remarkable in how straightforward it is. As we've seen many times, regulators have trouble keeping pace with technology, and hunting is no exception.

Drone and hunting, however, have received a fair bit of attention of late. For one, Alabama State Sen. Roger Bedford recently proposed legislation that would ban the use of drones to harass hunters, which PETA and other animal rights groups had taken to doing. That bill passed in February, with Alabama joining Illinois and Wisconsin (at least) as states that have banned harassing hunters with drones.

Wisconsin is an interesting case because hunting with drones is also illegal in Wisconsin, even if people still do it. (Hunting drones themselves is also illegal, but that hasn't stopped one Colorado man from trying to legalize it.) Like Wisconsin, Alaska's ban isn't going to guarantee an end to drone hunting, which mainly speaks to the difficulty of wildlife officials' jobs, as enforcing rules across Alaska's great expanse is nigh impossible. Still, the fact that Alaska has drawn the line in the sand is pretty interesting—up in the Last Frontier, using drones to track game simply isn't sporting.