Category Archives: Featured Content

Rutz, Rabung Added To New ADFG Staff

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: 

(Anchorage) — Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang announced two director-level appointments as he continues to fill key leadership roles at ADF&G. Lang has named Dave Rutz Director of the Division of Sport Fish. Sam Rabung has been appointed the Director of Commercial Fisheries.

Rutz and Rabung have long, distinguished careers at the department and bring a wealth of experience to their new roles.

“Dave Rutz and Sam Rabung come to these positions with outstanding qualifications,” said Vincent-Lang. “Both have years of knowledge and experience in Alaska’s fisheries. They have held increasingly complex and diverse positions in the department and have deep connections around the state. I am pleased that they have agreed to serve.”

Rutz has worked in fisheries research and management for nearly 40 years. He spent much of his career at the department’s Division of Sport Fish as an area management biologist in the Northern and Western Cook Inlet Management area. He has also led the department’s Alexander Creek Invasive Northern Pike Removal and Restoration project and worked around the state in various research and management roles. He graduated with a B.S., Wildlife Fisheries Emphasis, St. Cloud State in Minnesota in 1980.

“I’m honored to be appointed and look forward to working with sport fisheries staff and department leadership to carry out the department’s mission to protect and enhance fisheries resources for the benefit of all Alaskans,” said Rutz.

Prior to accepting his new role, Rabung has been serving as section chief for the Division of Commercial Fisheries Statewide Aquaculture, Planning, and Permitting, a position he held since 2015. He has also worked in a variety of positions overseeing hatchery operations around the state. He first joined the department as a fisheries technician in 1983.

Rabung graduated with honors in 1987 from Sheldon Jackson College with a B.S., in Aquatic Resources, Fisheries Science and Aquaculture Emphasis. A lifelong Alaskan, he attended A.J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, where he graduated in 1982. He serves as a voting member on all Regional Planning Teams statewide and as vice chair of the Governor’s Mariculture Task Force. He will be based in Juneau.

“I look forward to serving the people of the state in this new role,” said Rabung. “ADFG is a unique and well-respected science agency, and the Division has a very strong team of dedicated and talented professionals. This is an opportunity to work closely with others across the department to ensure we are contributing to the Alaska economy and putting fish on the plates of Alaskans.”

Both begin work (today).

Making Hunters’ Dreams Come True

Photos courtesy of Billy Molls

The following appears in the January issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY CHRIS COCOLES

His dreams are fulfilling yours.

Consider this: Billy Molls, who’s led big game Alaska hunts for more than 20 years, got his start as a teen as the guiding world’s equivalent of office go-for. Yet ask him to remember his best Dall sheep or downed grizzly taken on a pleasure hunt and he can’t cite an example.

“I’ve never shot a big game animal for myself in Alaska, and I really don’t have a burning desire to do it,” admits Molls, 42. “By the time I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be a hunting guide in Alaska. I figured that was my backdoor to experience the Alaskan wilderness. So this is pretty much all I ever wanted to do.”

The grandson and son of hard-working, no-nonsense trappers and farmers in rural Wisconsin, Molls’ passion for the outdoors, adventure and drive has served him well. He’s still based in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and daughters and guides hunts in his home state. But his heart and soul is in the Last Frontier, where he regularly films the hunts and has produced several DVDs, including recent new releases that feature a Dall sheep hunt and fitness tips for the field.

From the time his trapper grandfather Bill encouraged young Billy to chase his dreams of hunting in the vast wilderness of the 49th state, Molls knew what he wanted and where he wanted to do it.

His website (billymollsadventures

.com) refers to him as a “Modern-Day Mountain Man.” It’s a moniker he takes pride in, inspired by his mentors back on the farmlands of northwest Wisconsin.

“My grandpa told me, ‘If you want to have an outdoor adventure, Alaska is the place you need to go,’” Molls says. “So I figured, ‘I’ll go hunt in Alaska.’”

One of Molls’ boyhood idols was his trapper grandfather.

IN ONE OF MOLLS’ DVDs, High Country Brown Bears, he takes on the giant spring bruins of the unforgiving coast along the Alaska Peninsula. There, besides the bears, Molls and his client Lonnie Cook face heavy rain and wind, strenuous climbs and a brutal packout of a 9-footer from a steep creek bed after the bear slid down the hill.  

“To be a consistently successful trophy brown bear hunter, it takes a wide-ranging skillset,” Molls narrates during the film. “Experience, strength, stamina, endurance and patience are necessary. But perhaps most important is mental fortitude. Enduring those cold, wet, windy days Alaska is so famous for is not for the faint of heart.”

And through the magic of the camera, Molls captures just how breathtaking and dangerous such trips into the Last Frontier’s remote backcountry can be.

On his first hunt as the main guide years ago, a client’s request spawned a new title to Molls’ resume: filmmaker and storyteller.

“The client had a video camera and he videotaped his hunt. He shot the bear and he had asked me to videotape him shooting the bear,” he says. “He sent a copy of all the footage that he took and of course I shot a little bit of him shooting the bear. And he sent that to my parents while we were in Alaska. And then after that I bought my own camera and started filming all my hunts.”

What most fascinated Molls about the filming of he and his client’s successful hunt wasn’t so much the actual moment of connecting on the shot but what led them there in the first place. His parents shared the video with friends around their Wisconsin home.

“It seemed like everyone was perhaps more interested in the lifestyle that we lived (in the field), what we ate, the weather – those kinds of things,” he says. “It’s not just killing an animal, but really it’s the adventure. And we started filming and after 10 years I decided to put this DVD together.”

He has about 15 programs available for purchase, a selection that includes stories of moose and caribou hunting in Alaska, footage from one of Molls’ own adventures on a trip to New Zealand and multiple bear hunt recaps.

Molls hopes all of his videos will provide viewers with a behind-the-scenes look at once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for his clients.

“I love the storytelling aspect, especially in more of my recent videos. And we’re really trying to connect the human element of each adventure. Because I think I find hunting and life to be synonymous in so many ways and every way imaginable,” he says.

“You can touch a deep chord that resonates with enough people, and it’s something that will stand for a long, long time. I really enjoy that part of trying to connect with people.”

In High Country Brown Bears, Molls gets some alone time between the departure of client Lonnie Cook and the arrival of the next hunter, Rob Mullins. He spends it soaking in the wild country he always wanted to explore thousands of miles away growing up in America’s Heartland.

From his oceanside camp, Molls spies a group of seals circling offshore in an attempt to confuse the baitfish they were hungry for. He watches bald eagles soar above the mountains he and Cook had just climbed to approach bears. A fox prances along the beach near his camp. Welcome to Alaska.

“I wanted to be an Alaskan hunting guide. That worked out. I wanted to be an outdoor writer or I would have liked to be a hunting video producer. So strangely I was able to do all those things.”

From where he started, it was a remarkable journey.

WISCONSIN IS KNOWN FOR beer, brats, the Green Bay Packers and its farming culture. America’s Dairyland lives up to the state nickname. Farming is how the Molls family made its living in Turtle Lake, about 100 miles south of Lake Superior at the Wisconsin-Minnesota stateline.  

But Billy’s grandfather Bill was also a professional trapper dating back to the Great Depression, a skill he handed down to his son Joe and grandson Billy, who was mesmerized by their trapping prowess when they brought back muskrat, beaver and pelts of other small mammals.

“They knew. They would set a trap (in a specific location) and in my mind I always thought of it as, they knew a language that I didn’t – the language of these animals,” Molls says. “Why are they setting a trap there? They’d answer those questions, but to me it was this big riddle. They thought like wild animals.”

And it fascinated young Billy. When he was 8 years old, he and Joe left by boat for a muskrat trapping expedition on Lightning Creek. Once they passed one of their family friend’s farms and into Wisconsin’s version of the bush, it solidified what Billy wanted to do with this life.

“As soon as we oared the jon boat away from the road, passed the neighboring farm and got out of sight of the power line and there was no evidence of man, something came alive inside me,” “I knew that day I wanted to make my life in the wilderness.”

Grandpa Bill, though he never had and never would make it to Alaska – he passed away 14 years ago – still made a convincing argument to his grandson that if hunting for a living was Billy’s career choice, there was no better place to pursue it than the Last Frontier.

So Billy began to read every magazine article on Alaska hunting. The state became his obsession, the white whale so many young outdoors geeks want to conquer. Somehow, someway, he would guide there. Alaska was 3,000-plus miles away from Wisconsin, but felt even further way spiritually as well as geographically.

“As a kid we really never went on vacations or anything like that. I’d never really been more than 200 miles from my house until I was 18 years old,” he says. “We always had food on the table, but by today’s standards we were most definitely poor. I never saw my grandpa or my dad  go on any hunting trips of that magnitude. So I just kind of assumed that it was beyond me.”

Yet right after high school graduation, Molls left Turtle Lake and started his pilgrimage to the north. He made stops in Montana for guiding school, then Idaho where he cut his teeth as a packer.

By the time he made it to Alaska, he also had to start out as a packer for a guide there. And as you might expect it wasn’t the most glamorous of first jobs (see sidebar). Still, Molls was well on his way to eventually opening his own big game guide service.

“My first two years as a packer I was definitely a grunt. It was my job to carry heavy things. (But) I was pretty good at skinning and I knew a lot of the basics of hunting. I had so many years of trapping and being a farm kid in general, I knew a little bit about everything. I could run chainsaws, had common sense and could drive vehicles and think on my feet,” he says.

“And I had a good work ethic more than anything. To me, none of it was ever work. I could carry heavy loads all day. I mean, that was my dream. I was in Alaska; it didn’t matter what I was doing.”

THESE DAYS, MOLLS GUIDES whitetail hunts in Wisconsin and spends parts of spring and fall taking hunters out for Dall sheep, moose, caribou and, of course, bears. Trips like these are expensive hunts but bucket-list items for everyone from the wealthy to average Joes – just like the Molls – who have saved for years for that one special trip.

“I’m not so much about getting a 28-year-old kid that’s an ultra-marathon runner a Dall sheep. I want to get one for that 65-year-old man with two artificial knees who worked his full life so he can finally afford to go on his dream hunt,” says Molls, referring to one of his most memorable hunts.

“This guy’s only got one climb up the mountain, so he’s got to make it count. For me, that’s where I get the most satisfaction and personal pride in what I do. I really try to take all my time and experience to make the client’s dream a reality. It makes it pretty rewarding.”

Zig Ziglar, the famed motivational speaker, talked a lot about dreams during his seminars during his 1970s and ’80s heyday when he barnstormed the map inspiring businesspeople. That includes that aspiring Wisconsin hunter.

“I’m paraphrasing (Ziglar) now, ‘If you want your dreams to come true, make enough other people’s dreams come true,’” says Molls, who himself hopes he can someday educate those unsure about the sport or even anti-hunting activists.

He even made his dad’s dreams – and in many ways, Grandpa Bill’s – come true when Joe made it to Alaska to hunt with Billy a few years ago, and one of Joe’s high school buddies joined them.

It was a sentimental experience for the Molls – Billy made a DVD about it called Hunt for the Unknown – as they paid tribute to Bill, who never had that chance to join his son and grandson in Alaska.

“(Joe) used my grandfather’s old .303 Savage rifle that my grandfather deer hunted with. So in a way it felt like my dad, my grandpa and I all hunted together,” says Billy, who in many ways feels like he’s living out two dreams as he’s evolved into the big game hunting guide he vowed to follow through on.

“You might even say he kind of lives inside me. A lot of times when I’m in the wilderness, I still kind of feel connected to him,” he says of the old trapper Bill. “I know him better even though he’s been gone 14 years. I feel like I have a better idea of who he was now. The more I’m in nature, the more I understand about him.” ASj

Editor’s note: Check out billymollsadventures.com for more information on his hunts and DVDs. Like at facebook.com/TheModernDayMountainMan and follow on Instagram (@themoderndaymountainman).

Sidebar

A GUIDING DEBUT TO FORGET

Billy Molls knew right away that Alaska was where he wanted to be to experience the hunting guide lifestyle. But like so many eventually hitting it big in various fields, he had to pay his dues first.

Molls’ early jobs reinforced the notion that spending multiple days in remote, weather-affected locales in Alaska isn’t always as exciting as it sounds.

He recalled one of his first trips as a packer for a hunting guide on Kodiak Island after he left the Lower 48 for Alaska. The party headed out into a snowy area after spotting a brown bear, and Molls knew as the “last man on the totem pole” he was going to do the dirty (and wet) work.

“The guide and the client both had snowshoes but we only had two sets. So I had to go without them. So we’re going through 4 or 5 feet of snow during a 2-mile stalk,” he says. “I would go crotch-deep with every step. My hip boots were filled with snow.”

Molls as a youing packer as he was given a rude introduction to Alaska big game hunting.

As can be the norm on bear hunts, the long wait for the bruin to move was doubly difficult for the group’s packer. The snow that had accumulated in Molls’ hip boots turned to freezing water during the duration of the four-hour standoff. Hypothermia would have become a concern had he been stranded.

The good news? The client finally shot the bear, which fortunately was in a spot where they could return the next day to pack it out.

The bad news? Molls, as the newbie packer, was going to have to go through another brutal experience.

“We got back to camp and I couldn’t even eat; I just huddled in my sleeping bag all night,” he says.

When they got back to the shooting site, they found it was a big, 10-foot-7 bear, which meant it was going to be a pretty heavy pack that the new guy would be carrying back to base camp, though at least he had snowshoes this time around.

“We’ve got about a 150-pound bear hide (to take) 9 miles back to camp. So that was just grueling. I took it like 6 of the 9 miles and I just couldn’t pack it the whole way. It was just so heavy. I think the guide was a little bit disgusted. We switched packs, and his was still real heavy but not as heavy as mine,” he says.

The lesson here, kids, is this was the moment when 19-year-old Billy Molls might have become discouraged or doubted that such a life was for him, even after dreaming of Alaska as a youngster in Wisconsin. Even after spending a couple years learning the ropes in Idaho and Montana.

But what happened on the way back to civilization made this a defining moment of a career, which has gone on now for more than two decades.

“I felt like I was a failure. I thought, ‘There goes my dream. I’m not man enough to pack that heavy load.’ We cruised in our Zodiac for about 5 miles on the ocean back to our spike camp. As we’re riding back, I’m looking at the mountains on Kodiak Island, the guide and the client are on either side of the Zodiac,” Molls says.

“I was just kind of despondent. I wouldn’t say depressed but I kind of felt lost. And after a while, I don’t know if the guide sensed it or not, but he punched me in the thigh and said, ‘Hey, you did a good job.’ That meant a lot to me – just that he recognized that I had a very heavy load. I didn’t get it all the way out but that he was happy with what I did. That gave me the confidence that I could actually do it.” CC

 

 

Father-Son Hunters Charged With Poaching Bears Sentenced To Jail Time, Fined

The Anchorage Daily News  reports that a father and son from Wasila convicted for a 2018 bear poaching case face significant punishments:

Andrew Renner, 41, and Owen Renner, 18, were convicted in a plea deal on multiple charges over a poaching incident last April on Esther Island in Prince William Sound, the Alaska Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday. Prosecutors said the men illegally shot the sleeping bears and attempted to cover up what they had done, not realizing their actions had been captured on video by a game camera nearby.

The misdemeanor charges the men faced included unlawful take of a female bear with cubs, unlawful take of bear cubs, and the possession and transportation of illegally taken game.

Andrew Renner was convicted of eight counts related to the illegal killing and transporting of the bears, and the falsifying of the sealing certificate. He also faces one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor because his son was 17 when the crime occurred.

The ADN says father Andrew Renner must serve three months in prison and pay $9,000 in fines among other punishments. His son’s 30-day jail sentence was suspended.

 

Applicants Wanted For Crewmember Apprenticeship Program

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association:

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, is seeking applicants for its Crewmember Apprenticeship Program. Through a safe and well-guided entry level experience, the program aims to provide young people an opportunity to gain experience in, as well as an understanding of, commercial fishing and its importance to supporting coastal communities.
In late 2017, ALFA was awarded a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to expand this program in Sitka and to support efforts to launch similar programs in other parts of the state. The grant, leveraged with support from the City of Sitka and ALFA members, was awarded as part of NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund. According to NFWF, “the work funded by these grants will result in improved management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.”
Last year, ALFA’s apprentice program received over 100 local, national, and international applicants, and ALFA placed 13 apprentices on commercial fishing boats over the 2018 fishing season. In 2019, ALFA plans to increase the number of participating apprentices, skippers, and fishing vessels and to enhance local employment opportunity. As Executive Director of ALFA, Linda Behnken explains, “With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities. Our goal is to provide young people with a safe introduction to Alaska’s fisheries and to share the curriculum we have developed through our program with fishing groups in other parts of the State and country”.
Lea LeGardeur, a crewmember apprentice from last year, says of her experience in the program, “Beyond giving me an entry point into an industry that I otherwise would have had a harder getting into…the skippers in the program all wanted to teach, and sign up to take greenhorns so they could pass on what they know.”
ALFA is seeking applicants for the 2019 fishing season. Crewmember application period is currently open and will close February 28th, 2019. Applicants must be 18 years or older to qualify. It’s free to apply; application information can be found at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/.

Alaska Man Stunned By Polar Bear He Killed Far From Animals’ Range

Eric Regehr/USFWS

Polar bears’ Alaska range is rather limited, according to this Alaska Department of Fish and Game map:

ADFG

Conservation group Polar Bears International says the bears do have a tendency to leave their habitat:

“Scientists believe that most polar bears limit travel to home ranges of a few hundred miles. However, they know of one satellite-tracked female that trekked 4,796 kilometers —from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay to Greenland to Canada’s Ellesmere Island and back to Greenland.”

Still, it’s rare in Alaska to see polar bears away from where you can usually spot them: In the remore areas of the northern tip of the state. So it’s understandable that an Alaska man was shocked to see a polar bear – considered one of the world’s most dangerous predators –  attempting to enter his cabin. Here’s more on an incident that left the bear dead from the Associated Press via the Anchorage Daily News: 

“My dog barked, and the bear was on my back, right behind me. And I jumped back inside, grabbed my rifle,” Hollandsworth said. “By time I got turned around, it was heading for the door, the open door. Wanted to come in. So they got shot point-blank right there at the doorstep.” …

The bear was shot more than 100 miles south of the Beaufort Sea coastline. He said the animals usually stay within a few miles of the coast, except for some pregnant females who may go farther inland to build dens.

Regehr said it’s hard to say why a bear wandered so far from its range.

 

 

USE OF UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ON DNA IN SALMON MONITORING COULD RESULT IN SAVINGS FOR STATE

 

The following press release is courtesy of the University of Alaska Southeast:

JUNEAU — Each year wild salmon return to the streams in which they were born to spawn and die. Salmon fishery managers must ensure that adequate numbers of fish return each year to spawn and produce offspring for future harvest.  It is expensive and labor intensive to count returning salmon, especially in remote streams.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Southeast, Auke Bay Laboratories, Oregon State University, the UK and China have found that salmon DNA collected in water samples from Auke Creek can be used to infer the number of salmon passing upstream to spawn. Two of the authors on the published paper who contributed to the research are former UAS Biology students now in graduate school, Josh Russell and Donovan Bell.  Russell is currently enrolled in the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences program, and Bell is in the biology graduate program at the University of Montana.

This form of DNA, termed “environmental DNA” or “eDNA”, can be collected from water samples.  Water samples are then filtered and probed using molecular genetic techniques to quantify the amount of DNA belonging to each salmon species, providing insights into the number of salmon upstream.

In this study, salmon entering Auke Creek were counted by hand by UAS undergraduates and National Marine Fisheries Service employees.  Water samples were then collected from Auke Creek and the eDNA from coho and sockeye salmon in water samples was quantified to see whether it predicted the number of hand-counted salmon.

The researchers report in a paper just published in Molecular Ecology Resources that simple models combining eDNA counts and stream flow accurately detected pulses in coho and sockeye salmon as they migrated upstream to spawn.  The upshot for salmon management in Alaska is that eDNA collection from water samples may provide a cheap means to track the abundance of salmon returning to spawn in creeks where other survey methods are logistically challenging or prohibitively expensive. This method of monitoring salmon runs could save the State of Alaska a great deal of money over existing methods.  Future efforts will be directed at determining whether these findings hold in locations beyond Auke Creek.

For more information about Biology & Marine Biology programs at UAS visit uas.alaska.edu/apply/programs/biology-marine-biology or call (907) 796-6100.

Alaska Guide Pleads Guilty To Charges Of Herding Bears For Clients

Apologies for not sharing this news sooner, but earlier this month a Fairbanks hunting guide pleaded guilty to charges he tried to herd bears closer to his clients on remote Alaska hunts. Among the man’s sentence was forfeiting his master guide’s license for life:

Here’s more from the Associated Press:

Brian Simpson of Fairbanks, operating as Wittrock Outfitters, also was fined $35,000 and sentenced to a year of probation Thursday in Nome District Court. He also was ordered to pay $2,600 in restitution for the killing of two grizzly bears.

In a plea deal, Simpson pleaded guilty to two counts of “aiding in the commission of a violation” for using his employees to turn bears toward his hunting clients. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of guiding within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, where hunting is allowed but guiding without a federal permit is not. 

The illegal actions took place on the Seward Peninsula north of Nome.

 

 

 

 

Study: Alaska Mismanaging Predator Control

Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia

A new study from Oregon State University suggests Alaska’s wildlife officials are mismanaging programs to control predators such as bears and wolves.

Here’s a little more from Oregon TV station KTVZ: 

“Gray wolves, brown bears and black bears are managed in most of Alaska in ways designed to significantly lower their numbers,” said study co-author William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Alaska is unique in the world because these management priorities are both widespread and legally mandated.”

The paper notes that favoritism toward moose, caribou and deer over large carnivores acquired legal backing in Alaska with the 1994 passage of the state’s Intensive Management Law. The legislation effectively calls for cutbacks in big carnivores to increase how many hoofed game animals are taken by humans.

“The law does also identify habitat management as a form of intensive management, but habitat management hasn’t been used effectively as a tool to increase abundance of these ungulates,” said corresponding author Sterling Miller, a retired research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Therefore, the default tool is predator control, the most widespread form of which is liberalizing state hunting and trapping regulations for large carnivores. This liberalization has been most extreme for brown bears, as this species used to be managed very conservatively.”

Here’s a passage from OSU’s study:

Science-based management of large carnivores in most of Alaska will require the political will and wisdom to repeal Alaska’s Intensive Management law. Alternatively or additionally, it will require professional wildlife managers to resist adoption of predator reduction regulations that are not conducted as experiments and/or do not include adequate monitoring programs of both carnivores and ungulates; this was a key recommendation in the 1997 report of National Research Council [5]. Furthermore, in Alaska and other states, the U.S. Department of the Interior needs to meet its legal mandate to manage for natural and healthy ecosystems in ways that are in the national interest. In Alaska, this will require not aligning hunting and trapping regulations on National Park Preserves and National Wildlife Refuges with state regulations that are designed to reduce naturally occurring densities of large carnivores. The state of Alaska also should be candid with the public about the absence of science supporting the efficacy of predator control programs to achieve established objectives with regard to ungulate harvests instead of making unsupported claims of “success” for wolf reduction efforts in publicly distributed booklets about Intensive Management (e.g., [15]). For bears, there are not even any claimed successes for increased harvests of adult moose or caribou resulting from increased bear harvests [3]. Appointments by the Alaska Governor to the Alaska Board of Game, which sets Alaska hunting regulations, should include members who recognize the importance and value of large carnivores both to ecosystem function [2] as well as to the state’s economy and wildlife viewing enthusiasts [16]. Mechanisms and funding must be in place to ensure science-based management that includes adequate monitoring and research of predator–prey relationships and trends [3,5,17]. Information campaigns and other grass roots efforts by concerned citizens and nongovernmental organizations are likely needed to remedy current unsound management practices for large carnivores in Alaska.

 

Moose/Car Collisions More Common In Alaska In Winter

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Statewide) — Motorists are urged to use extra caution this time of year when traveling roadways in Southcentral, Interior, and other regions where moose are common. Long nights and short, often dimly lit winter days make the animals especially difficult to spot, increasing the danger of moose-vehicle collisions.

“The majority of our road kills occur during the winter months,” said Kenai Area Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger. “Decreased visibility due to lack of daylight, icy roads, and moose movement patterns all contribute to the increased collision rates we see at this time of year.”

Visibility hazards are further compounded when accumulating snow forces moose into lowland areas, often around highway corridors where travel is easier and food sources more exposed. The combination can be deadly for moose and motorists alike when vehicles traveling at normal highway speeds collide with the animals that may weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds.

To help prevent collisions with moose, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests drivers practice the following safe winter driving habits:

  • Clean vehicle headlights and windshields. Moose can be difficult to see and most moose-vehicle accidents occur at dawn and dusk when the light is low and moose are most active.
  • Drive according to weather conditions. Reduced driving speeds at night and in adverse weather allow motorists better opportunity to spot moose near roadways and provide more time to react should animals bolt into the road.
  • Be alert. Deliberately and continuously scan for wildlife on both sides of the road and along road corridors and medians.
  • Stay tuned. Cow moose crossing or standing near roads are often accompanied by calves; reduce speed when moose are spotted and look for additional animals that may be crossing behind the first.
  • Observe Signs. Watch for highway warning signs marking high moose-vehicle collision areas and known moose crossing areas such as moose ranges or refuges; remain especially alert for a few miles before and beyond those areas.
  • Back Off. Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you to allow for greater braking distances and reaction time.
  • Other Clues. Watch for flickering in the headlights of oncoming traffic or against reflective signs that may be caused by an animal crossing in front of that vehicle.

Motorists involved in or who witness moose-vehicle collisions should contact Alaska State Troopers. Injured moose should be reported to the nearest Department of Fish and Game office during normal business hours, online at adfg.alaska.gov (Report a Wildlife Encounter), or to the troopers outside normal business hours.

Rachel Baker Named ADFG Deputy Commissioner

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Anchorage) — Acting Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang today announced that long-time Alaska fisheries analyst Rachel S. Baker will join the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) as deputy commissioner beginning Feb. 1. Also joining the department is Rachel Hanke who started work as legislative liaison earlier this month.

“Rachel Baker and Rachel Hanke both understand the importance of the health and sustainability of our resources in the long-term,” said Vincent-Lang. “They care about putting food on the table of Alaskans and insuring that the state retains its fish and wildlife management authority.”

Baker brings 15 years experience as an analyst and policy advisor in state and federal fisheries management to her role at the department. She began her fisheries career in 2003 as an economist with ADF&G. She joined the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2008 where she most recently worked as Supervisory Fishery Management Specialist in Silver Spring, MD. She will be based in Juneau.

As deputy commissioner she will represent the state’s interests in federal fisheries management issues, including representing the department with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on behalf of the commissioner. She will also coordinate state and federal fisheries policies and management programs to benefit the state and Alaska’s coastal communities.

“I am pleased to join the ADF&G and support its important work to manage and conserve our fisheries resources,” she said. “I have always been impressed by department staff and their commitment to providing high quality information for management decisions. I am eager to work with our scientists, managers and stakeholders to implement policy and management programs that maximize fishery benefits for all Alaskans.”

Hanke started at the department on Jan. 7. She will be the department legislative liaison. She worked in the legislature for five years prior to joining the ADF&G. Her background includes stints as staff to Sen. Peter Micciche and Rep. Kurt Olson. She is an avid hunter, fisherwoman, trapper and lifelong Alaskan. She grew up on the Kenai River.

“I am thrilled to work with lawmakers on fish and game issues,” said Hanke. “Alaska is unique, and I look forward to sharing the department’s challenges with lawmakers as well as the opportunities the department brings to Alaskans.”