The Alaska Board of Game voted on proposals to change hunting and trapping rules across Southeast Alaska as its regional meeting continued through the weekend at The Landing Hotel in Ketchikan.
The seven-member board that determines State of Alaska wildlife management regulations considered more than 50 proposals concerning the five management units in Southeast. Members voted to adjourn the meeting Monday evening, wrapping up their agenda one day earlier than expected.
On Monday, the board voted 5-2 to pass Proposal 42, which will extend the deer hunting season in Ketchikan-area Unit 1A excluding the Cleveland Peninsula by one month. The season end date will move from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the deer population is strong in Unit 1A. Department surveys show that 857 hunters took a reported 793 deer in 2021, with hunters succeeding to harvest a deer in under four days on average. This satisfies the department's deer harvest objective of 700 deer in the unit each year.
Board members favored expanding opportunity for hunters in the area by making the season one month longer.
"We can provide the opportunity, there's an excess of resource that warrants us providing that opportunity, users can choose not to take it," Board Member Lynn Keogh said Monday.
Federal subsistence users can already hunt in December, according to federal Office of Subsistence Management representative George Pappas.
"More deer hunters in December would theoretically be in competition with subsistence users," Pappas said.
Proposal 43, which passed with a 4-3 vote, will increase the bag limit for Alaska residents hunting for mountain goats in Unit 1A from one goat to two goats. The new rule includes three restrictions: the first goat taken must be a male "billy" goat; the first goat taken must be sealed before a hunter receives their second registration goat permit; if the hunter goes for a second goat, they must take a goat from a different subsection area of Unit 1A.
The proposal allows all residents of Alaska, not just locals, to target two goats in different areas of Unit 1A. Board Member Stosh Hoffman of Bethel said he's not concerned this rule will cause an overharvest of goats.
"Harvest is already low, and there are lots of sidebars and caveats to this proposal so the additional harvest would be even lower," Hoffman said during deliberations Monday.
Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Tom Schumacher anticipates this new rule will place a labor burden on the department. Just a few people will be responsible for creating maps and developing a permit system for the expanded goat harvest, Schumacher told Ketchikan Daily News on Monday.
The board voted unanimously to support Proposal 46, which will extend the wolf hunting season by three months in Unit 2, which includes Prince of Wales and outlying islands. Under the new rule, the state's wolf hunting season start date will move from Dec. 1 to Sept. 1 to align with the federal subsistence hunting start date for wolves.
Extending the state wolf hunting season isn't expected to impact overall harvest. Wolves taken by hunting are accounted in the state's population estimates that determine the length of a trapping season, according to Fish and Game comments on the proposal.
Just a few wolves are harvested outside the wolf trapping season in Unit 2; an average of less than 3 wolves per year have been harvested during the months of September and October over the last decade, the department wrote. That's about 5% of the total average annual wolf harvest in Unit 2.
Wolf trapping is managed jointly by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Forest Service under regulations set by the Board of Game. When the board last met in 2019, it established a new system to manage wolf trapping that varies the annual trapping season length to a population objective of estimated live wolves remaining after each season.
For example, the 31-day length of the 2022 wolf hunting and trapping season set from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 was based on Fish and Game's fall 2021 estimate that 268 wolves lived in Unit 2, down from 386 in 2020 and 316 in 2019. According to state wildlife officials, a reported 62 wolves were taken during the 31-day 2022 harvest.
On Monday, the board unanimously struck down all nine Alaska Wildlife Alliance proposals seeking more conservative management of the wolf population in Unit 2, which includes Prince of Wales and outlying islands.
The Alliance proposed conservative management strategies such as raising the floor for a harvestable wolf population from 100 to 200 wolves or reverting to a quota system like what the state employed before 2019, establishing a guideline harvest level between 20% and 35% of the population estimate and including an "unreported mortality rate" that would factor against hunters' wolf allotment.
Alaska Wildlife Alliance President Carol Damberg said the group's proposals meant to "throw the tool bag" and give the board a range of options in creating management precautions.
"We didn't expect them to adopt all of these, it was more to give them a range of options for precautionary management," Damberg told Ketchikan Daily News Monday. "I want to believe it's fine and functioning well, I don't know if I'd take that leap of faith right now."
Adopted proposals will take effect when the state's regulatory year begins July 1.
The board meets on a three-year cycle, and is expected to convene for its next Southeast Region meeting in 2026.
Stosh Hoffman of Bethel, Al Barrette of Fairbanks, Lynn Keogh of Wasilla, Jake Fletcher of Talkeetna, James Cooney of Eagle River and Ruth Cusack of Chugiak currently sit on the board. Jerry Burnett of Juneau chairs the board.