Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News Miner / December 13, 2006
Though hunters had not yet reached the overall harvest quota for the joint state/federal registration hunt for Fortymile caribou, the state Department of Fish and Game is closing the hunt at midnight on Thursday because hunters have taken too many cows.
The harvest management plan for the Fortymile hunt allows a harvest of 850 animals, of which only 25 percent, or 212, can be cows. As of Tuesday, 218 cows had been taken in the fall and winter hunts.
A total of 48 cows were taken during the fall hunt and 170 cows had been reported harvested in the winter hunt, which opened on Dec. 1.
"Since we are at 218 cows, we have to close the season now," Tok area wildlife biologist Jeff Gross said.
The harvest quota for the winter hunt was 372 caribou, and the reported harvest as of 2 p.m. Tuesday was 332 caribou.
Most of the winter cow harvest occurred in Game Management Unit 25C off the Steese Highway near Circle Hot Springs. That portion of the hunt was closed Saturday to prevent an overharvest because a large portion of the herd was in the area and hunters were approaching the quota.
"Most hunters are willing to take bulls, but cows were very numerous along the Steese, and nearly 60 percent of the animals taken on the Steese side were cows," Gross said.
The reported harvest for the Steese Highway hunt was 206 caribou, of which 119 were cows. The harvest on the Taylor Highway stood at 126 on Tuesday, with the reported cow harvest at 51.
Hunters must report within three days of a kill. Gross expects to have a preliminary harvest number within the week. It should be close to the overall quota of 372, he said.
Hunters who did not get a caribou must report within 15 days of the close of the season, which means hunters must file their harvest reports by Dec. 29. Hunters who fail to report by that deadline will not qualify for permit hunts next year and may be ticketed by Alaska State Troopers.
At approximately 40,000 animals, the Fortymile herd is the biggest caribou herd in the Interior. It has doubled in size from 1996 to 2004 as a result of a special management plan aimed at increasing herd size but has leveled off in the past two years.
The management plan is aimed at continued growth, which is the reason game managers capped the cow harvest at 25 percent of the quota and encourage hunters to take bulls, not cows.
Staff writer Tim Mowry may be reached at 459-7587 or email@example.com.