Hunters in Alaska are looking at a reduced harvest of the Nelchina Caribou Herd. A stressful winter, with heavy snow and a late spring, dramatically increased the herd’s mortality rate. As a result, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) reduced the quota of the hunt from last year’s high of 5,500 to 2,500, despite the issuance earlier in the year of over 12,000 hunting permits.
In a press release issued in early August, the ADFG elaborated on the reduction of the herd, stating, “The herd’s migration to the calving grounds was delayed, and many caribou, including calves, died while trying to reach the calving area…. Some drowned in flooded rivers; others likely died from nutritional stress brought on by the long winter, deep snow, and late green-up.”
In addition to reducing the quota for this year’s hunt, other restrictions limit hunters to shooting only bulls after the first day of the season. Bulls-only hunting aims to protect the population. The bulls-only restriction began on Aug. 11 for the nearly 700 hunters who are participating in the Copper Basin Community Subsistence Harvest hunt and the more than 6,800 hunters with Tier I subsistence permits. In addition to those two groups, there are an additional 5,000 drawing permits, swelling the ranks of potential hunters to over 12,000. The big fear is that the hunt ends quickly, with the harvest quota reached before the end of August.
Management biologist Becky Schwanke sums up the ADFG perspective, saying, “We’re comfortable with the number of caribou we’ve got, but I feel bad for the high number of hunters.” The ADFG feels this year’s quota is sufficient to allow a good hunt for all; Schwaknke tempers the fear of a short season, commenting, “I think people will have a reasonable amount of time to hunt.”
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner