On Feb. 13, your local Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee may be making recommendations to the Board of Game to reduce or eliminate antlerless moose seasons in Game Management Units 20A and 20B.
From 2004 through 2006, hunters harvested 1,947 antlerless moose and 1,705 bull moose from 20A, averaging 650 antlerless and 570 bulls each year.
The F&G management plan is to harvest 1,100 -1,500 each year and to maintain a population of 10,000 -12,000 moose. The Department wants the population reduced from an estimated 14,500 in November 2007 to 10,000 -12,000 because of the poor condition of the moose and moose range.
Many hunters don't believe in killing antlerless moose. Some feel the moose population in 20A has already been reduced too much and they don't trust Fish and Game's information. Others think there are too many hunters in 20A.
If the antlerless harvest is reduced or eliminated this season there will be 100,000 to 250,000 pounds less moose meat in freezers next winter. At $4 a pound, that's $400,000 to $1,000,000 less.
From 2004 to 2006, about 6,000 moose died each year from all causes in Unit 20A. Hunters harvested around 1,200 and predators killed about 4,000. Predators kill four moose for every moose harvested by hunters. Before we cut back the harvest and lose hundreds of hunters or significantly reduce hunting success, we need to reallocate some of the 4,000 moose killed each year by predators. The herd can support a harvest of 1,000-1,500 moose each year if predators are reduced and especially if the habitat is improved.
If this moose herd needs to be reduced, kept about the size it is now or increased back up to the 2003 level of 18,000, the key factors are managing predators and enhancing moose habitat.
Changing antlerless seasons, bull seasons, bag limits and zone harvest quotas are not even short-term fixes to the problems in Unit 20A.
The Alaska Constitution and state laws clearly say our wildlife resources are to be managed for the benefit of the people - and that means consumptive use. For over 20 years, we have been "managing" moose for the benefit of predators.
In many areas of Alaska, moose numbers are very low and hunting has been severely restricted or virtually eliminated. Hunters have been forced into Units 20A, 20B and 20D, which have fair moose populations.
This has complicated moose management in these areas, and they can no longer be managed for local hunters and guides alone. If we keep fighting over how many bulls, cows and calves we should kill, the size of the antlers, whether we walk, fly, boat or drive to go hunting, whether we use a rifle, bow or spear or who needs the meat the most, we will continue to lose out to the organized anti-hunters and animal rights groups. They like it when hunters fight among themselves.
Remember, in August we will vote on a ballot initiative to stop the management of predators by hunters, trappers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Legislature is currently working on a law (HB 256) which might shortstop the initiative, but it will not stop the anti-hunters and animal rights organizations from trying to destroy our way of life.
Voice your concerns to the Fairbanks Advisory Committee (Feb. 13), to the Board of Game (Feb. 29 - March 10) and to the Legislature RIGHT NOW. Register to vote and vote in the August primary election and November general election.
Bud Burris is a retired ADF&G Game manager, Past member of the Fairbanks Fish & Game Advisory Committee and a Director of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Association.