The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
New regulations to increase hunting opportunity and harvest of Nelchina caribou were adopted by the Alaska Board of Game recently in response to an emergency petition filed by the Department of Fish and Game. The regulations are intended to keep the herd within management objectives and provide additional harvest opportunity. Currently the Nelchina caribou herd exceeds sustainable population objectives established by the department.
The emergency regulations, which went into effect February 24, increase the bag limit for Tier I hunt RC566 and Community Subsistence Harvest CC001 in Game Management Unit 13 to two caribou per household. Previously the bag limit for these hunts was one caribou per household. Current permit holders for these hunts were sent an email with instructions on how to obtain an additional harvest report, should they choose to hunt for a second caribou.
Under these emergency rules, some 12,000 Tier I and 1,000 community subsistence hunt permit holders will be eligible for permits to harvest a second caribou. The emergency regulations are temporary and only impact the remaining month of the spring seasons, which close on March 31, 2017 or by emergency order.
Harvest opportunity remains for existing DC485 permit holders who have not already harvested a caribou during the 2016–2017 hunting season. Those permits are valid until they are filled or area caribou hunting seasons close on March 31, 2017.
The department will monitor harvests and hunt conditions under the emergency regulations. Further hunting opportunities in the form of a registration hunt could be added depending upon harvest and participation in the existing Tier I, community subsistence, and draw hunts. If additional harvest is needed, the department will provide all necessary information about the new registration hunt in a news release.
Good adult survival and calf recruitment have combined to raise Nelchina caribou herd numbers above the department’s sustainable management objective of 35,000 to 40,000 animals. The objective was designed to prevent over-use of the range. Analysis of data from a photo survey conducted in July places the current population estimate at 49,950.
Significant numbers of Nelchina caribou are currently wintering within Unit 13. In past years, the herd has migrated out of the unit to areas where late-winter harvest is problematic due to land status and the presence of other herds with lower harvestable surplus. The accessibility of the herd this year resulted in community subsistence hunt reaching its 300-caribou cap for the first time.
Hunters are reminded to be aware and respectful of private and Native corporation land boundaries, controlled use areas, and closed hunting areas including the Clearwater Controlled Use Area, Paxson Closed Area, and the Tangle Lakes Archeological District. To learn more about lands closed to hunting, see the 2016–2017 Alaska Hunting Regulations.
For herd movement updates and emergency orders, call the Nelchina caribou hotline at 267-2304. The hotline will be updated periodically for the remainder of the hunting season.