The Alaska Board of Game will be meeting at the Kenai Visitors Center beginning Friday March 15th though Tuesday March 19th beginning at 8:30am each day.
The KSRM News Department will also be providing updates from the board meetings:
The Board meeting is currently getting started, with all seven members ready to address some “contentious” issues, with a special emphasis on those affecting the Kenai area.
Unable to attend, Commissioner of Fish and Game Cora Campbell sent an apology, though the Deputy Commissioner is expected later.
Updates and staff updates are scheduled for this morning, with a town hall forum later this afternoon. At around 6:30pm, a meet and greet with Board Members will be held at Main St Tap and Grill.
Board Member Bob Mumford gave an update on the Big Game Commercial Services Board meeting in Fairbanks earlier this year, saying poor attendance was probably due to the focus on Juneau with HBs 8 and 158.
A Retired Guides license was instituted at the Fairbanks meeting, for a one time fee of between $300-$600. The license does not allow guiding activity, but serves as an honorary title.
Larry Van Daele, Southcentral Region Supervisor with ADF&G, thanked the Board for bringing the meeting to the Kenai Peninsula, and described the activities within the area.
For Units 7 & 15, a slew of proposals were previewed, covering moose, brown bear, black bear, wolf, and ptarmigan.
Van Daele and Board Chair Ted Spraker agreed that despite the different testimonies which may be heard over the coming days, “we’re all in this together.”
Research Biologist Thomas McDonough then gave a presentation on Kenai Moose. McDonough has been collecting local data for about 1 year. To fill in any gaps, McDonough referred to multi-year studies from around the state.
Moose populations boomed in the 1970s and 80s, after a large fire, which renewed the habitat.
In Unit 15C, it’s estimated 20 percent of bill moose were harvested in 2010, which was deemed unsustainable. Subsequently, antler restrictions were adopted in 2011, dropping harvest levels to their lowest point in 50 years.
The winter of 2011/12 was noted as especially severe, with snow depth in many areas well above average and in some places well above the ‘severe’ level. McDonough related increases snow depth to higher moose calf mortality.
Spring moose captures will start next week, comparing moose rump fat measurements taking last fall while moose were in their peak physical condition to their current post-winter condition.
Despite deeper snow conditions in unit 15C, moose in that area were found to be in better condition than those in 15A. Chair Ted Spraker pointed to significant habitat issues in 15A, which haven’t been fully addressed.
The moose study will continue through 2015.
Board members were impressed with the data collected and presented.
The meeting recessed at noon and will resume at 1:30pm, when the Board will continue their questions for biologist Thomas McDonough.
During the afternoon, the Board heard further reports on Kenai Brown Bears.
The afternoon town hall meeting was well attended, with 65 people packing the hall, filling all seats. Attendees spoke about brown bear, moose, and habitat issues, but Board Member Mate Turner said he would have liked to heard a greater variety of opinions, which he has herd over the years.
Tuesday morning picked up the first of the Kenai Peninsula proposals, which had been previewed Monday afternoon. Proposal 143 would modify the bag limit for moose to 50″ or greater, 3 brow tines in Units 7 and 15.
The proposal was amended to read: modify the bag limit for moose to spike 50″ or greater, 4 brow tines in Units 7 and 15.
Board Member Turner said he liked the proposal, since it would give opportunities to harvest a few additional moose, encouraging the declining number of moose harvests.
Board Member Bob Mumford said he supported the 4 tines, since it would head off any biological issues and not dip into the 3 tine pool of moose.
Board Members emphasized again that calves are not legal for hunting.
No action was taken on Proposals 144-146, since they were covered in the amendments to Proposal 143.
Proposal 147 would suspend aerial taking of wolves in Unit 15A and modify the population and harvest objectives for moose.
Doug Vincent-Lang with the ADFG said he was “very concerned about the moose population in 15A,” due to the habitat issues and a suspicion that bears are more numerous than anyone expected. For Unit 15A he favored some aerial intervention, but was less sure for Unit 15C where moose populations are within ADFG targets.
Proposal 147 was amended to encourage hunters and trappers to target wolves.
Proposal 148 would reauthorize the antlerless hunt in the Homer Bench area.
Board Member Turner said there’s been much public testimony against this hunt, but felt it was very important to that part of the Peninsula and would be good to continue.
The Proposal was approved unanimously.
No action taken on Proposal 149, since it was covered in 148.
Proposal 150 would allow the use of motorized land vehicles in the Lower Kenai Controlled Use area during the hours of 10am-3pm and during dark hours.
Enforcement experts emphasized this Proposal could be difficult to enforce, since the hours are varied and would require additional personnel. Another concern is that drivers could be using motorized vehicles for other purposes and it would hard to prove that the driver was actually hunting moose.
The Proposal failed unanimously.
Proposal 151 would re-institute the closure of Palmer Creek/Lower Resurrection Creek areas in Unit 7 to moose hunting.
Residents of Hope called for the closure, because they felt hunters were trespassing, causing safety issues for people hiking and berry picking, and harming the local moose population. It was noted four illegal bulls were taken in 2011 when the Board opened the area to a road hunt. Only six bulls were taken in total.
Board Members emphasized that trespassing is an issue, and hunters must be sensitive. However, since there were no biological reasons to close the hunt, the Proposal failed 6-1 with only Probasco in favor.
The Board then moved to establish a minimum number of brown bears for the Kenai Peninsula. Chair Spraker felt an “off-the-cuff” suggestion thrown out of 100 was too small, and said 200 to 250 would be better. ADFG staff are now going to consider a scientifically-based number for the next meeting of the Board.
Proposal 153 was considered next, to modify registration season dates and bag limit for brown bears.
ADFG suggested three amendments: registration season April 1-May 31, Sep 15-Nov 30 around the major population areas; a draw hunt Sep 1-Nov 30 for the rest of the area; and a bag limit of one brown bear every four years.
The Chair Spraker also recommended an upper limit harvest objective not to exceed 70 bears per year, starting Jan 1, 2014.
An amendment to change the date from June 15-May 31 was passed 6-1, with Spraker against.
The bear baiting portion of the Proposal was discussed, and left in.
With amendments, 153 was approved unanimously. 154-156 were then eliminated with no action.
152, a housekeeping issue, was passed quickly.
Proposal 157 would require hunters to salvage either the hide and skill or the meat and remove from the field. It failed unanimously.
158 to increase the bag limit for black bears failed unanimously.
Proposal 159 to open Skilak Loop to wolf, coyote, and lynx hunting was taken up. Chair Spraker recommended Kelly/Pererson Lakes be added.
The Proposal was passed with amendments.
Proposal 160 opens a no closed wolf hunting season on the Peninsula. Amendments extended the trapping season for wolves and coyotes by adding 25 days to the beginning of the season.
The hunting portion of the proposal was dismissed, leaving current regulations in place. The trapping portion of the proposal, now named 160A was approved unanimously.
161, relating to ptarmigan seasons failed.
With all Kenai proposals complete, the Board recessed for lunch.