Petersburg Pilot -

Local moose season opens and hopes are high

 


Moose season is now open and hunters are afield trying to fill their freezers. Hunters will continue to operate under the same regulations, as hunting areas and antler restrictions remain unchanged from 2014. The season opens with high hopes for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and hunters alike.

Last fall, 106 moose were taken locally, the second highest total on record for the RMO-38 moose hunt. The total was just a couple shy of the 109 recorded moose killed in 2009.

“That’s very good, because it wasn’t that long ago that we were averaging 50 to 55 moose a year,” says Rich Lowell, area wildlife biologist for ADFG. “We keep pushing the season total up and we are averaging out nicely.”

Lowell says over the last six years the local moose hunt has averaged 90 moose per year. A contributing factor to the average has been relatively mild winters over the past two years. Below average snow fall means more moose surviving the winter. Lack of snowfall helps limit predation, the main culprit being wolves which excel at hunting with powder ground cover.

“With respect to our wolf population in Unit 3, I think we have a relatively high number of wolves,” Lowell says.

Recent winter conditions increase the opportunity for moose to evade the predators and especially helps moose calves survive until spring.

“This hunt has become extremely popular,” Lowell says. “We’ve seen such an increase in our harvest over the last decade that we are starting to draw hunters from elsewhere in Southeast.”

Hunters from Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau are among those coming to the area to try their luck. Lowell says the increase in hunters allows ADFG to interact with the public and gather information for hunters afield on a large scale.

For ADFG, registering hundreds of moose hunters creates a lot of administrative stress, but now their focus turns to checking moose kills to make sure the animals are in accordance with antler restrictions.

“On average about 1 in 10 moose harvested is illegal,” Lowell says.

That’s less than 10 percent illegal harvest in any given year, which Lowell calls tolerable within the ADFG’s harvest strategy and antler restrictions. Lowell says the numbers are consistent with other hunting areas throughout Alaska.

 

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