ADF&G's Neil Barten made the decision to close the hunt Sunday night at 11:59 p.m., based on what the high level of hunting interest, coupled with good travel conditions, could do to the struggling herd.
KDLG, Dillingham – By emergency order, the winter moose hunt in Unit 17C is going to close at the end of the day Sunday, almost three weeks early.
“That is just the Unit 17C portion of the RM 585 hunt area," Neil Barten said. He is the area wildlife management biologist who made the call Friday. Eight moose have been reported taken through Thursday.
"Composition surveys we’ve done indicated the bull-to-cow ratios in 17C are well below the minimum we want to see, so I feel it’s necessary to close the season at this point. Relatively good snow machine travel conditions have increased the hunt’s popularity, we have over 260 permits issued, so there’s a lot of potential for increased harvest and we just can’t afford that.”
It's a difficult decision, but Barten said that it’s important to protect subsistence hunting opportunities for the future. He personally called all the nearby villages Friday, and briefed the Nushagak AC chairman Frank Woods ahead of time. Before the season he cautioned this could be necessary.
“We have been talking about this for the better part of year, off and on, so I surely hope people understand what’s going on. It’s a bummer, but I think for the moose population it’s the best move.”
Barten says he’s not alarmed about the herd strength in 17C, but he will be gathering more data as he continues a substantial moose research project that started last year. The first year of data showed very rates of moose calf survival.
"The whole moose population starts with calves becoming adults and getting into the hunting population. That was really not very good this year, and hopefully in the next couple we’ll see an uptick in that. It is the one thing that worries me more than anything, because really, everything we hunt, all their productivity and everything, starts with calves turning into adults to keep the population going.”
Unit 17C closes Sunday night. Unit 17B remains open, and no request has yet been made to open 17A north of Togiak. Barten can be reached Monday at 907-842-2334.