The state Department of Fish and Game is closing part of the Fortymile caribou hunt along the Taylor Highway near Tok for the fourth year in a row because the Nelchina Caribou Herd has infiltrated the area.
The Fortymile hunt is scheduled to open on Friday.
The closure is in Game Management Unit 20E, south of an east-west line that intersects the Taylor Highway at Milepost 60, which is about six highway miles south of the village of Chicken. Hunters must travel north of Milepost 60 to hunt, said Fish and Game management coordinator Roy Nowlin.
The closure is aimed at protected Nelchina caribou that have moved into the area during the past three weeks, Nowlin said.
"When they move in there we need to make sure we don't overharvest the Nelchina herd as part of the Fortymile hunt," he said.
Under state hunting regulations, Nelchina caribou may be taken only with a Tier II permit in Unit 3 or under federal subsistence regulations on federal lands. The federal subsistence hunting season for Fortymile caribou remains open on federal lands in the southern part of Unit 20E.
The closure is not expected to hinder hunters pursuing Fortymile caribou because less than 5 percent of the Fortymile herd is in the southern portion of Unit 20E where the season is being closed.
"Most of the Fortymile herd is north of Milepost 60," Nowlin said.
Signs will be placed along the Taylor Highway to notify hunters of the closure.
Nelchina caribou have been moving into the southern portion of Unit 20E for the last 20 years and have remained in the area throughout the winter. Biologists don't know if and when the caribou will move this winter.
"If the Nelchina animals stay in the southern part of 20E, they'll be protected by this closure," Nowlin said. "If they move into other areas, we may need to take additional action at that time."
The quota for this year's winter Fortymile hunt is 372 animals, which will be split between the Taylor and Steese highways. Sixty percent of the harvest will go to the Taylor Highway hunt, and 40 percent of the quota will be allotted to the Steese Highway hunt.
At this point there is no large concentration of caribou near either road, Nowlin said.
Staff Writer Tim Mowry can be reached at email@example.com or 459-7587.