Citing poor winter travel and low harvest numbers, ADF&G and USFWS have agreed to keep the hunt open till Feb. 20.
Hunters in northwest Bristol Bay will have an extra month to hunt moose this winter. The announcement that Unit 17A's two registration hunts, one for bulls and one for cows – or anterless moose – will stay open till February 20 was handed down Wednesday by ADF&G.
The hunt opened December 21, and was originally planned to close January 20. As has happened several times in recent years, poor winter travel conditions limited the opportunity for hunters to get out into the field, except by boat.
Area wildlife biologist Neil Barten said just 9 moose have been harvested.
"Believe it or not all of them were taken with skiffs, according to the hunt reports, which is probably the first time in the history of a winter hunt where that’s happened.”
The Togiak Traditional Council made the extension request, which used to be unusual and hard to push through. But both the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and ADF&G have recognized the need to be flexible with the hunt window because of unreliable winter weather. And the biologists would like to see hunters help control the growing moose population in Unit 17A.
“Since we do have quotas in the neighborhood of 30 cows we’d like to see taken, and 20 bulls, and so far only nine have been taken, we want to provide that opportunity," said Barten.
The winter moose hunt in Unit 17C around Dillingham was closed earlier than expected in December; Barten believed the large number of participants might take a severe toll on the health of the struggling herd. Barten has some similar concerns about the moose in Unit 17B, further up along the Nushagak River, but that hunt stayed open on schedule on account of low participation.
But out west the moose are doing so well biologists want to see them culled back before they outgrown the landscape.
“Yeah, 17A’s a whole different place," said Barten. "The moose are newer to that country, and as often happens when moose move into new habitat, they take off, they’re very productive, have good survival, good recruitment, and it seems to take the predators a while to catch on as well. We have objective [moose populations] over there for 800 to 1200 moose, and we’re probably closer to 2000 right now."
That includes taking cows, whose survival matters exponentially more to the herd's health that bulls. Unit 17A has two separate registration permits for the winter hunt, and since it opened on Dec. 20, five cows and four bulls have been taken.
The hunts will now remain open until February 20, or the quotas are reached.
Barten reminds hunters that in addition to their registration permits, they need to have a 2018 state game hunting license in their possession, too.
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