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An average February means good hunting conditions around Togiak

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Courtesy of ADF&G
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After a warm start to the winter, the recent bouts of cold weather and heavier snowfall have made for more favorable conditions. 

Togiak Traditional Council member Peter Lockuk, Sr., describes hunting conditions around Togiak in Yup'ik:

 

 

February is shaping up to be relatively normal for this time of year in Bristol Bay. 

 

"That doesn't sound very dramatic, except when we put it in the context of the past few years that have been so mild in the late winter," said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assesment and Policy. "Unlike some other parts of the state, the Bristol Bay area has had some storms come through to produce some snow to help with conditions," 

 

 

That's a good thing for hunters around Togiak. Temperatures dropped in mid-December, as the warmer weather patterns of this autumn subsided. A cold January followed. The month was below average, with extended periods below freezing. 

 

 

Peter Lockuk, Sr., is the Yugtun place names coordinator for the Traditional Council of Togiak.

“We couldn’t get moose right off the bat from the start because of the trail conditions we encountered. But it got better,” Lockuk said.

 

Lockuk said that the recent snow around Togiak has made hunting easier, and more folks have been going out. 

“Quite a bit of snow fell down and that wet snow sort of helped some areas in open tundra to keep that snow on the ground, making the trail conditions much much better now,” he said. 

The moose hunt in game management unit 17A closes at 11:59 p.m. on February 29. It was originally set to close on February 9. Hunters need a 2020 hunting license and can bag up to two animals — an antlered bull with permit RM575, and an antlerless cow with RM576.

 

While the moose hunt was extended, the Mulchatna caribou hunt was closed for the season on both state and federal lands due to a sharp decline in the size of the herd. Lockuk said he has noticed a major shift in caribou around the region. 

“The caribous are kind of scarce this year," he said. "I myself hadn’t seen anything. I started hunting moose in the fall season upriver, in places we normally see caribou. But for some reason they weren’t around. And it’s gotten into the winter season, I hardly hear anyone — local residents seeing any caribou, compared to other years.”

 

As February marches on, the heart of the cold center has shifted to the northwest of the state, pushing up temperatures in Bristol Bay. Thoman, with the Alaska Center, said that cold spell is forecast to break, and  March will likely be warmer than average. But intrusions of cool air will likely make next month cooler and more variable than the record-breaking heat of 2019.

 

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.
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