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Alaska Peninsula caribou herds increasing, says area management biologist

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Dave Crowley, area management biologist for Game Management Units 9 and 10, says fall hunters can anticipate increased caribou populations and, consistent with previous years, low moose density.

The fall hunt for caribou has already begun in many parts of Southwest Alaska. Moose, bear, ptarmigan and ram hunts will get underway soon as well. Game Management Unit 9, which is on the Alaska Peninsula, opened areas 9A, 9B, 9D and portions of 9C on August 1. On August 10 portions of 9C and 9E will open. Several caribou herds make their home in that unit.

“We have the Northern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd. Currently that’s only open to local hunters,” says area management biologist, Dave Crowley. “That’s a drawing hunt for subsistence only. Then we’ve got the Southern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd, which is down south of Port Moller, between Port Moller and Cold Bay. That is open to residents and non-residents both, it’s a harvest ticket hunt, no registration or drawing permit required on that one.”

The Mulchatna Caribou herd, which is managed out of Dillingham, also sometimes wanders into the western part of GMU 9’s area. The North and South Alaska Peninsula caribou herds are both increasing. Crowley anticipates that the NAP will be open to a registration permit hunt, meaning there will be no lottery for a permit.

Moose hunting kicks off in September. Moose density is low in most of the unit, but that is normal for the area.

“It’s much better caribou and brown bear habitat than it is moose habitat. There’s stretches of decent moose along the river corridors where there’s willow and birch and whatnot where the moose can make a living, but primarily we’ve got half a moose per square mile or less for most of the peninsula for habitat reasons,” says Crowley.

Ptarmigan season opens August 10. In the spring, biologists were concerned about low populations of ptarmigan and Alaska hares on the peninsula. There are no limits on when hunters can take hares or how many they may take. Crowley says that is still a concern, and that Fish and Game wildlife managers in King Salmon have submitted proposals to the Board of Game to reduce the season and bag limit for those animals in GMU 9. Those proposals will be taken up at the February meeting in Dillingham.

Game Management Unit 9 stretches from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve to just past Cold Bay and King Cove. It includes the Kvichak River and Iliamna Lake.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.