Wolf Song of Alaska News

Alaska Board of Game Adds New Restrictions to Caribou Hunting in Nelchina Basin

Permits: Two are allowed per household; subsistence salvage rules also changed

Alex deMarban / Anchorage Daily News / October 10, 2006

The Alaska Board of Game changed the highly restricted Nelchina caribou hunt slightly Monday, including reducing the maximum number of permits per household.

It also rejected some controversial ideas and postponed others.

The highway-accessible hunt in the Nelchina Basin north and east of Anchorage is one of the most sought-after in the state. It's roughly framed by the Parks, Denali, Richardson, Glenn and Tok Cutoff highways.

But entering the Tier II hunt is tough, with permits awarded on a scoring system based on hunting history and other factors.

Hunters complain there aren't enough permits. Board members complain that hunters younger than 38 can't enter and that winning a permit has become a liar's contest. They also say many hunters don't follow subsistence practices, paying hundreds of dollars to arrive in motor homes or airplanes.

The board met Saturday through Monday in Anchorage to consider proposals designed to stem those complaints. The most controversial idea would have created "super-exclusive" subsistence areas around Cantwell and in the Copper River area of Game Unit 13. Such areas would be open to any Alaska resident willing to forgo state-regulated hunts elsewhere in the state. More than 50 Alaska Natives from the region protested, saying it would box them into an area where few caribou migrate.

The board rejected that measure.

It also considered outlawing off-road vehicles such as four-wheelers, but it tabled that idea until March.

The board unanimously agreed to reduce caribou permits from a maximum of three per household to two. It tightened salvage requirements in the moose and caribou subsistence hunts.

Among other new salvage rules, hunters must now pack out more of the animal, including its head and hide.

The new provisions will make it harder for subsistence hunters with big families who need that extra caribou or elders who can't haul around a heavy moose hide, said Nick Jackson of Gulkana.

"They should have left it the way it is," he said.

The board, meeting Nov. 10-15 in Wrangell, will likely consider redefining the amount of caribou and moose needed for subsistence in the region, said Chairman Ron Somerville.

If there's a surplus of caribou, the board could consider creating a general drawing hunt after subsistence needs are met, giving all Alaskans a chance to win a permit by lottery.

Daily News reporter Alex deMarban can be reached at ademarban@adn.com.

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