Predator Control Area Approved in Central Kuskokwim

Alaska Department of Fish & Game / March 8, 2004

The Board of Game established a Central Kuskokwim predation control area in Game Management Units 19A&B to benefit a dwindling moose population and hunters.

Adopting an implementation plan to create a predation control area is the first step in authorizing the Department of Fish and Game to conduct a wolf control program. Before a control program can be conducted, the Board must adopt findings relating to a specific area. Findings for Unit 19A will be considered before the Fairbanks meeting ends on Wednesday.

Currently, seven predation control areas are approved in the state, and control programs are being conducted in two of them.

The control area approved by the Board includes both Units 19A and B, but only 19A is being considered for wolf control for the first year of the program. Hunting in Unit 19A is limited to Alaska residents, only.

Predator control was proposed by the Central Kuskokwim Moose Management Planning Committee (CKMC), which was concerned about declining numbers of moose in the Central Kuskokwim area. The CKMC included representatives of many user groups, including members of the Central Kuskokwim, Lower Kuskokwim, Anchorage, and Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committees, guides, transporters, and nonconsumptive users.

Late last week, the Board eliminated nonresident moose hunting in Unit 19A along the Kuskokwim River between Lower Kalskag and Lime Village. The Board also closed the resident winter seasons to eliminate cow moose harvest, adopted a resident registration hunt to help improve harvest reporting, shortened both resident and nonresident moose seasons in 19B, and established antler restrictions for resident hunters using harvest tickets in Unit 19B.

Nonresident moose hunting will be closed for one year in Unit 19A. The Board intends to reconsider the issue at its March 2005 meeting. At that time, board members will evaluate new information about subsistence use, moose, wolves and bears, and determine if some nonresident hunting can be provided. They will also consider whether the predator control program should be broadened to increase moose numbers in the Unit 19B area as well.

Biologists, local hunters, guides, and state wildlife troopers have observed a decline in moose numbers over at least the past six years. Additionally, most members of the Central Kuskokwim Advisory Committee have advocated wolf control in the area for several years. All hunters on the CKMC agreed that wolf control is essential to moose population recovery and maintaining hunting opportunities. The dissenting opinion was held by a member of the committee representing nonconsumptive uses.

Guides and local hunters agreed about the need for predator control, but did not agree about whether to stop hunting by nonresidents in Unit 19A. Local hunters wanted protection of subsistence hunting and objected to competition from nonresidents taking moose in the area. Guides stated that their clients did not compete with local hunters, given that nonresidents were already excluded from hunting along the river corridors.

Board Chair Mike Fleagle said the Board tried to maintain some level of nonresident hunting in the area because local residents benefit from the guide industry both by the money brought into local economies and from meat donated to village residents. Guides and their clients also harvest bears which can help reduce predation.

"We want to keep the guiding industry alive, while maintaining the most opportunity we can for subsistence users," Fleagle said. "The two uses can co-exist, but there needs to be some spatial separation until the moose population recovers to higher numbers."

The Board plans to wrap up deliberations by Wednesday evening.

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