Alaska's Winter Fortymile Caribou Hunt Canceled

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The winter State of Alaska hunting season for Fortymile Caribou will not be held this year because the herd's harvest quota for the entire year was unexpectedly exceeded in a short three-day fall season.

"This year the caribou concentrated near both the Taylor and Steese Highways," said Regional Management Coordinator Roy Nowlin. "Most of the animals were taken the first day of the season, so by the time the season was closed in Zones 1 and 3, we had exceeded the quota."

Both zones were closed to hunting by emergency order at midnight Wednesday night, August 12. Nowlin said only nine of the 77 radio collared animals in the herd were near the highways, and vegetation hid many of the animals from biologists who flew over the area. As a result, the actual number of caribou present was much larger than staff realized.

Harvest of the Fortymile herd is guided by a management plan jointly developed by state, federal and Canadian agencies, five state Advisory Committees and the federal subsistence Regional Council. The plan was approved by the Alaska Board of Game and specifies harvest quotas in each of three different hunting zones, but allows adjustments if the quotas are unexpectedly exceeded.

Department staff met via teleconference with representatives of all five state Advisory Committees with jurisdiction in the Fortymile area, the federal Regional Council and the federal subsistence hunt manager on Tuesday evening. The group discussed the harvest strategy and considered options available under the harvest plan. ADF&G considered recommendations from Advisory Committee and Regional Council members before making management decisions. ADF&G agreed to increase the 2009-2010 annual quota and to reduce the 2010-2011 quota to partially compensate for exceeding the harvest near the Taylor and Steese Highways this year. Also, the federal subsistence hunt manager has closed the fall federal subsistence season, in order to allow the winter federal subsistence season to proceed.

ADF&G will allow the state's fall hunt in the non road-accessible areas between the Steese and Taylor Highways (Zone 2) to proceed as planned. The harvest in Zone 2 has progressed at a much slower rate than the other areas, and the season will remain open until September 30 or until the Zone 2 quota is reached.

Harvest of Fortymile caribou is regulated by registration permits, and hunters are required to report taking a caribou within three days. When the harvest quota is achieved, the hunt is closed.

"The registration permit system works very well when caribou are widely dispersed or are relatively hard to find," Nowlin said. "Problems develop when caribou group together along major highways. Then the harvest goes very quickly."

Nowlin said Advisory Committees, Regional Council and ADF&G and federal staff will be evaluating this year's harvest and will consider changes to the harvest plan or to the hunting regulations needed to control the harvest and still allow the caribou herd to grow. If so, proposals will be submitted to the Board of Game by the December 1 deadline.

Hunters are encouraged to call the Fortymile Hotline at (907) 267-2310 before going hunting in Zone 2 to make sure the season is still open.

Hunters with questions about the federal subsistence hunt should call (800) 478-1456.