Board of Game Authorizes Predator Control,
Reconsiders Denali Buffer

Alaska Department of Fish & Game / March 9, 2004

The Board of Game established two new predator control programs in the Central Kuskokwim Area of Units 19A&B and in the Western Cook Inlet area of Unit 16B, and plans to consider another in the Tok area at their next meeting.

In the Central Kuskokwim and West Cook Inlet areas, moose are important for providing high levels of harvest for human consumptive use, according to the Intensive Management law.

In the Central Kuskokwim area, the Board has limited control activities to Unit 19A which encompasses 9,969 square miles along the Kuskokwim River between Lower Kalskag and Lime Village. The moose population objective is set at 13,500-16,500 moose providing a harvest of 750-950 moose annually. Currently, the population is estimated at 6,890-11,300 moose and between 200-300 are being harvested each year.

The Board authorized the Department to issue permits to members of the public including land and shoot or shooting from aircraft after July 1, 2004. The program is aimed at an approximate 80 percent temporary reduction in the wolf population in Unit 19A for up to five years. An estimated 180-240 wolves inhabit the area now, and up to about 140-190 wolves should be taken the first year of the program. The Board findings state that at no time should the wolf population in the Central Kuskokwim Wolf Control Area be reduced to fewer than 40 wolves.

The Board also encouraged the Department to continue efforts to obtain additional moose population information to evaluate the progress of the wolf predation control program.

The Western Cook Inlet area encompasses about 10,000 square miles in Unit 16B. The Board set a moose population objective of 6,500-7,500 moose intended to provide a harvest of 310-600 moose annually. Currently, the population is estimated at 3,423-4,321 moose and between 69-122 are being harvested each year.

The Western Cook Inlet wolf control program was authorized for four years. The Board authorized the Department to issue permits to members of the public to conduct land and shoot or shooting from aircraft after July 1, 2004. The wolf population in Unit 16B will be reduced from about 88-137 to 22-45 wolves for four years. At no time will the population of wolves be reduced to less than 20 wolves.

The Board has also taken action to increase harvest of black and brown/grizzly bears in the Western Cook Inlet control area by extending seasons, eliminating the brown bear tag fee, increasing the brown bear limit and changing the black bear baiting boundaries.

In addition to authorizing two new control programs, the Board asked the Department to provide a draft implementation plan for control of predation by bears and wolves for the Tok area in Units 12 and 20E for consideration at their November meeting.

Control programs can be established if predation control implementation plans, which delineate an overall area in which a control program can be conducted, are in effect for an area. Board members adopted wolf control implementation plans for Unit 16B during their last meeting in November, 2003, and for the Central Kuskokwim earlier in the current meeting.

The Board is concerned about the declining trend in the moose population in the Tok area. The declining trend will make it impossible to sustain current levels of harvest, which are already below intensive management harvest objectives. The Board indicated that a predator control program in the Tok area could prevent the current situation from becoming worse.

Earlier in the meeting the Board adopted a policy outlining the process to be used when considering bear management. The Board also created a new "Control of Predation by Bears" section of the wildlife regulations parallel to the preexisting "Control of Predation by Wolves." The new section will govern management decisions when bear predation needs to be reduced.

Previously, management of bears was attempted only through changes in hunting seasons and bag limits. The new section states that the Board will first look at seasons and bag limits, but if necessary could consider other tools, including baiting and same day airborne taking. Aerial shooting of bears will not be considered.

In other wolf related news, the Board voted Monday to preserve the "Denali Wolf Buffer," but reconsidered the topic on Tuesday. In an attempt to respond to concerns of eight advisory committees that supported eliminating the buffer, the Board voted to change the boundary to affect the minimum amount of state and private land while providing adequate protection for viewing. The area closed to wolf hunting and trapping now includes state and private land between the eastern park boundary and a line parallel to and one mile east of the Parks Highway, from Healy Creek to Windy.

The boundary changes will take effect July 1, 2004.

The Board adjourned at noon and is scheduled to meet again in Juneau in November.

Contact: Cathie Harms (907) 459-7231

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