The 17A moose hunts brought in 22 moose - 14 cows and eight bulls. The season ended on Feb. 25. Now, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is gearing up to monitor the robust herd this spring.
Returns are trickling in for the antlerless and antlered moose hunts in game management unit 17A near Togiak. So far, 22 moose have been reported harvested – 14 cows and eight bulls. That’s up from 17 moose at the hunt's original end date on Jan. 25. The hunt was extended by a month and ended on Feb. 25.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Neil Barten said the harvest numbers are just below average.
“The last couple of years I think we were closer to 28 at the end of the winter season. Prior to that not near so many. We would have liked to have gotten a few more, but I think people did pretty well,” he said.
The quota for this year’s winter hunt was 30 cows and 25 bulls. This was the second year in a row that it was extended in order to increase hunting opportunity in an area known for its robust moose population. But warm weather continued into February, making hunting conditions less than ideal.
“Come middle of January, everything went to heck," Barten said. "Since then we’ve had marginal travel conditions across the tundra, and a lot of the little creeks started opening up, and in some cases the rivers. So it hasn’t been very good for people to get out on the landscape in the last five or six weeks.”
The target population for 17A is 800 to 1,200 moose. The most recent survey, conducted in 2017 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, showed a population of about 2,300 animals. ADF&G is trying to manage that population in several ways. Last year the department added an antlerless permit to the fall season for 17A, and eight cows were taken between August and mid-September.
“That’s one way of trying to increase harvest opportunity and take some of the animals off the landscape," Barten said. "That was the first year. And all those hunts, give them a year or two and people catch on and start doing a little better.”
Data collection is another significant part of population management. As spring approaches, ADF&G is gearing up for their seasonal monitoring of herd movement, calving and twinning rates. These efforts depend on radio-collaring cows.
“One of the really important pieces of information is at what age do they first have calves," said Barten. "That gives you a really good idea of what the condition of the animals on the range is. Over there in 17A I think a lot of the two-year-old animals start dropping calves already, which is really good. You don’t see that throughout most of the state.”
What that data says about the herd will help inform management decisions; if Togiak moose continue to thrive, Barten said, changes to those hunts could be proposed at the next Board of Game meeting in 2021.
ADF&G urges hunters to submit outstanding permits for the 17A hunts. Permit holders must turn in their harvest reports whether they hunted or not. Failure to do so could result in a ban on hunting under a permit for the next year. Hunters can submit reports online, by mail, or in person at the ADF&G office on Kenny Wren Road in Dillingham.
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