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How Many Mountain Lions In Alaska?

California Department of Fish and Game

Interesting story from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s newsletter,  Alaska Fish and Wildlife News, about the possible existence of mountain lions (cougars) in Alaska.

Here’s writer and information officer Riley Woodford with more:

Reports of cougar sightings in Alaska have come from as far west as the Kenai Peninsula, but the most credible reports come from Southeast Alaska, which is adjacent to known populations in Canada. Although the cats are fairly rare in northern British Columbia, biologists estimate there are about 3,500 mountain lions in Southern B.C. – and Vancouver Island has one of the highest densities of mountain lions in the world.

Cougar Sightings in Alaska

Ketchikan-based state wildlife biologist Boyd Porter said that with cougar numbers increasing in much of their historical range, it’s not surprising they would disperse and wander down some of the big river valleys flowing out of Canada. He added that males would be the most likely to disperse and look for new range.

The heavily glaciated coastal mountains are a formidable barrier to movement between Canada and Southeast Alaska. The most prominent “trans-boundary” river in Southeast Alaska is the Stikine, which cuts through the mountains and meets the Inside Passage between Petersburg and Wrangell. A little further south, the Unuk River, about halfway between Wrangell and Ketchikan, provides another narrower corridor.

Wildlife technician Micah Sangenetti works in Ketchikan with Porter. He’s familiar with both river valleys. He said a cougar could come down the Stikine, or the Unuk, which is closer but narrower. Ketchikan is on Rivellagigedo Island (often called Rivella Island for short). In either case a cat would need to cross a narrow saltwater passage, Behm Canal, to reach the island.

“The Stikine River drainage is like a superhighway compared to the alley that is the Unuk,” Sangenetti said. “The Stikine is a wide valley, which cuts through the coastal range much further into the Interior. That’s the same reason moose are making it to Mitkof and Kupreanof (Islands), whereas the Unuk River’s source begins in the Coast Range.”

The only known cougars to be killed in Alaska were taken near the Stikine River. In December 1998 a wolf trapper snared a mountain lion on South Kupreanof Island, and in November 1989 a mountain lion was shot near Wrangell.

State wildlife biologist Rich Lowell of Petersburg said he used to get one or two reports of cougar sightings each year, but it’s been quiet recently. “The last reliable sighting we received was a few years ago when a Stikine River moose hunter said he had a cougar leap down from a tree very close to him and run off. He said another hunter had also reported seeing a cougar around the same time.”

Back To Where It All Began

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

BY PAUL D. ATKINS 

I’ve always wanted to get back to where it all began – the place where I fell in love with Alaska and the beauty of the Arctic. 

It’s a spot on the map in the far North, where few have been and fewer still have returned. It was a place I visited in my youth with my father, my uncle and his friends. It was there where I hooked my first salmon, saw my first grizzly bear and experienced my first real boat ride. 

I remember the cool weather beaten back by long sleeves and camouflage and rifles slung across our shoulders; it was awesome. I’ve never forgotten that day on that piece of river, and I still think of it often. In fact, I was so moved by it that I named my son after that river …

Eli.

I HAD NEVER BEEN BACK to that spot. Why? I don’t really know. Maybe I didn’t want to spoil the memory and, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was – there was only a picture in my mind. So when my good friend and hunting partner Lew Pagel said we should pack up to head north and find that spot, I was eager to go. “Moose,” he said when we talked about the purpose of our visit. “Let’s look for a moose and maybe catch one of those big ‘chum dogs’ you’re always talking about.”

We packed gear all week for the adventure. We had everything hunters need for a long weekend of camping upriver in search of adventure. The weather was going to be iffy at best and would probably involve us getting wet, with the thought of a warm fire but a dream. Cloudy days mixed with rain and cold nights were in the forecast, but the wind was supposed to be light at best, a huge plus when it comes to crossing oceans and sounds and maneuvering upstream in an open boat. 

I packed the usual weaponry: my trusty rifle, the BowTech bow and a pistol, just in case. I knew there would be bears; there always are when hunting the upper Noatak region. The area is loaded with them; when you hear conservationists talk about favorable habitat, well, this part of Alaska is built for grizzlies. Rocky sandbars line the river leading into dense areas of willow and small birch trees. But fish are the key to the presence of bears. 

Salmon congregate in the deep pools, making their final run through the narrow streams into the shallows, creating a grizzly bear buffet. The constant splash and swirl in the water created by these big fish define long stretches of river.

The ride up was a wet one. Rain came down in sheets of misery. Lew and I both knew that if it didn’t let up, the weekend might be a bust. Several times I turned to ask Lew if this was really worth it, but I could see he was determined, even though rainwater was dripping down his nose.

We pressed on, navigating the shallows and avoiding the many gravel bars that are well known once you enter the flat country. Finally, according to the GPS, we had arrived. 

The entrance into the river looked familiar. Ducks, geese and a group of sandhill cranes welcomed us as we made our way into the channel that is called the Eli. Salmon raced beneath us, the rain even stopped briefly to provide a sense of happy anticipation. There is nothing better than riding into new country, seeing new things and being hopeful about what is to come.

WITH NO BOATS OR people in sight, we knew we had the stretch of river to ourselves. We motored slowly up the channel and watched the water break constantly from all the fish hitting the surface. I turned and smiled at Lew, but I didn’t say anything. We both knew what this meant; there would be bears, and many to choose from.

The last bend in the river before it forked brought back my vision from long ago, and I could see it. This was it, this was the place and this, I told Lew, was where we were going to camp. I could see why we had stopped here all those long years ago; it was ideal. 

With plenty of bank to watch for moose and the expected bear, we had good vision in all directions. The river narrowed as well, holding an accumulation of fish like I had not seen in many years. Great hunting, great fishing and – at least for the moment – we had it all to ourselves; this would be our home for the weekend. 

The rain came and went, but Lew and I made quick work of getting up both the tent and the adjacent mosquito hut. The bugs weren’t bad, but we knew that if the sun did break through, they would be. 

The fish called to us, and in no time we were in our waders standing hip-deep in the clear blue water. Every cast was a strike and within minutes we had fish on. The big chums fought like warriors and provided three or four hours of nonstop action. It was fun!

WITH EVENING APPROACHING WE surveyed the area. Our intuition was correct; the shoreline was covered in fresh bear tracks and scat, some monstrous in size. Mixed among them was the occasional fresh moose track that we could only assume was one tough dude to be living in country where everybody was trying to eat him.

Late evening in the North Country is prime time for most species. Moose, bears and other creatures exit the dense cover of willow and alder and make their way to the river. We knew this and made a plan accordingly. Lew went one way and I went the other in hopes of doubling our chances on the short three-day hunt. 

As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and looking back we should not have done this. When in bear country with so many of these predators roaming freely about, you should always stay together, and when I took off on my own I felt this almost immediately. I nervously tried to keep one eye on the river and another on the wall of willows as I pushed forward. It’s an eerie feeling, especially when you feel like you’re being watched.

After 500 yards of this and with darkness approaching, I decided to head back to camp and meet up with Lew. This is when I heard a shot downriver in the direction of where he had gone. I quickly made my way in that direction, wondering what happened. 

As I traversed the mud bank imprinted with a plethora of big bear tracks, I looked for Lew but couldn’t find him. I pushed slowly on, rifle ready and ears listening for the sound of anything that didn’t seem right. It was nerve racking to say the least. 

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I broke the silence by calling for Lew, but there was no answer. A swarm of bad thoughts entered my mind. What if? What if a bear had charged him and that shot was in self-defense? Images from the movie The Revenant were all I could think about. What if? I pushed forward and to my great relief saw Lew sitting along the high bank of the river smiling. BBD!

The bear had come out on the opposite side of the river. Lew watched as it had made its way across the river, stopping midstream to catch a fish. After dragging it to the far bank and commencing to eat, Lew placed a carefully aimed shot from his 7mm. 

The bear had dropped where it stood; peering through my binoculars in the dusk-like dark I could see it on the other side. High fives all around, but not until I mentioned that we would never do that again! We have to stay together; it’s just too damn chancy! 

We didn’t want to work in the dark and decided to wait until morning to make our way over to Lew’s bear. We thought it would be safe with all the noise and the firing of Lew’s rifle, but all we could do was pray that nothing would mess with the bruin overnight.

IT WAS A SHORT, cold night, with sleep almost nonexistent, a lot of tossing and turning with one ear open for the sound of an approaching bear. The next morning we glassed upstream to see if Lew’s bear was untouched; it was. 

We carefully maneuvered the boat as close as we possibly could and made our way along the gravel bar to where he was. Stiff and wet, the great bear lay where it fell; it was Lew’s biggest so far. 

We snapped off a lot of photos and began the process of skinning the beast. If you haven’t skinned a grizzly or any bear for that matter, I hope someday you can. It’s a surreal and tedious process at the same time but has to be done right if you plan for a rug or to have it mounted. The feet are the biggest challenge, but if you know a little anatomy, you’ll be fine.

Just as the sun broke we had it done and were on our way back to camp. The smell of bear, which is like no other, permeated our clothing, but we were both happy. The rest of the day Lew worked on his bear and I grabbed a quick nap during the “safe” daylight hours. It was good to sleep, especially in the new roomy eight-man Cabela’s tent and new cots that I had brought along specifically for this hunt. It would soon be time for another adventure. 

AFTERNOON APPROACHED AND I awoke. Lew was just finishing up, so I decided to grab the rod and reel and give those “jumping” fish another go. It was fun standing there in the river reminiscing of that day long ago. I could picture my father standing beside me as I hooked my first salmon, trying desperately to land him on the gravel bar. I never did catch that fish, but I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything.

As clouds began to build to the south the sun disappeared entirely. I knew rain was coming and asked Lew what should we do the rest of the day. “You’re up,” he replied, “so you can decide.” I knew that the likelihood of killing another bear was almost a sure thing, but I also knew we might have to move or at least boat downstream in order to make it happen. But my goal wasn’t a bear; I needed a moose. The freezer back home was feeling a bit empty and needed to be filled. 

With only so many weekends left before freeze-up we had to find a moose, or at least hit the caribou migration right. 

We decided to break camp and float downriver, but only until 9 p.m. or so. If we were going to have a chance at anything, it wouldn’t be before then anyway. We did so just as the rain started coming down. 

We said goodbye to that special spot and Lew eased into the river, cut the motor and let the current pull us out. It was quiet – the special silence that is full of anticipation of “anything” could happen at any moment. And it did.

I LOVE WHEN PLANS come together and things tend to line up. As Lew poled us like a canoe, we rounded each bend in complete silence. It’s legal to shoot from a boat, ATV or even a snowmachine in Game Management Unit 23 (covering Kotzebue Sound and the Chukchi Sea to the Arctic Ocean), as long as the motor is off and progress from the motor’s power has ceased, which was our case the moment we left camp. We knew that if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a chance. 

As we pushed forward I felt Lew touch the top of my head – I was sitting on the boat seat directly in front of him – and point towards the left bank of the river. Through my Leicas I could see the big bear coming in our direction. 

He was old, blonde in color and seemingly unaware of our presence. I moved to the front of the boat and positioned myself with my rifle. As we closed the distance, the bear’s attention was on the river, not us. The constant sound of salmon splashing was all he could focus on. 

As I pushed the safety off and found him in my scope, he did what all good bears do: He looked straight at us – almost like a sixth sense – turned and disappeared into the willows. Like so many times before in places across the Arctic, we were bitten by a bear’s intuition.

It wasn’t until seconds later that we saw something we couldn’t comprehend. Another bear was making his way towards us on the other bank. It was surreal. Only this bear was on a mission and just kept coming with little to zero fear, or maybe it was just his stomach that kept him coming. 

He was close; for a minute I thought of grabbing the bow but had second thoughts since things were happening too fast. I lined the rifle up and found the deep chocolate bear in the scope. I never felt the recoil – I never do – and watched as the bear fell where he stood.

I paddled us the short distance to shore and could see he wasn’t as big as the first bear, but I was happy. In the twilight, I could see he was beautiful, with a great hide and exceptional claws. I also knew it was another bear that wouldn’t be taking anymore moose, something I would have traded him for if I had had the chance. But it was a great hunt and a great couple of days.

Lew and I made quick work of getting the hide off and into the boat. It was dark now and with rain setting in we decided to make the long ride home. We are used to this, long rides home in the dark, arriving while everyone else is asleep. We are actually getting pretty good at it. Plus we decided the next weekend would be better for moose anyway. 

As the boat lights guided us home I felt a sense of joy and satisfaction, and it was a feeling that I had come full circle after all these long years in the Arctic. Finally, I had traveled back to the place where it all began, a place that provided great adventure and grand scenery both times, a place that I want to get back to with my son Eli. Maybe we too can create a future memory as well. ASJ

Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on big game hunting and fishing throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal.

 

Almost 160,000 Pounds Of Contested Salmon In Landfill

 

From the Fairbanks News-Miner (via the Associated Press):

Nearly 160,000 pounds of salmon from a failed Alaska fishing operation have reached an Anchorage landfill after testing declared it unfit for consumption.

The Bristol Bay salmon came off of the fishing vessel Akutan last month, and its stakeholders are pointing at each other as responsible for the fish contamination, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported .

The Akutan was planned to be a floating custom processor that could handle up to 100,000 pounds of salmon a day for a small fleet of fishermen under Bristol Bay Seafoods LLC. But when the vessel experienced a number of problems and the owner went broke, the crew was left unpaid.

 A lawyer representing the seafood company said they believe the fish became contaminated sometime between the August inspection by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and when the fish were unloaded from the processor in early September. Samples of the fish were found to be saturated with diesel, which the lawyer said indicated the crew was responsible either by negligence or by other means.


Steve Lecklitner, the captain of the vessel, has disputed the testing on the fish conducted by a third-party group, questioning the methods and thoroughness. He said less than 1 percent of the fish was tested.

Fishing Expo, Job Fair In Sitka Coming Up

Fishermen practice extinguishing fires during an AMSEA training at a previous Fishermen’s Expo in Sitka. Photo by Alyssa Russell.

Fishermen attend a bathymetric mapping training with a representative from Nobeltec at a previous Fishermen’s Expo in Sitka. Photo by Alyssa Russell.

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

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association will partner with the Sitka Seafood Festival to host a Fall Fishermen’s Expo in Sitka from November 7th-9th, 2017, providing workshops, educational events, and networking opportunities for commercial fishermen and the public. The main expo events in November will be preceded by an open meeting with representatives from the International Pacific Halibut Commission on October 30th.

The expo, modeled after similar expos held by ALFA in the past two years, is part of an effort to expand the usual summer festivities of the Sitka Seafood Festival beyond the fishing season and provide educational opportunities that benefit our local fishing industry and economy- giving back to the fishing heritage that supplies our local seafood. Thanks to sponsors including SEARHC, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the City of Sitka, and several local businesses, all events are free and open to the public.


Sitka fisherman Eric Jordan receives technical assistance from a representative from Nobeltec on his boat, the F/V I Gotta, during a previous ALFA Fishermen’s Expo. Photo by Alyssa Russell.

Information and trainings offered are targeted towards both older, more experienced fishermen and younger people who are looking to gain mentorship and experience in the industry. Workshop topics will include: best practices while running a fishing business, policy updates, bathymetric mapping trainings, safety courses hosted by AMSEA, and seafood marketing information.

“By partnering with ALFA to host the Fall Fishermen’s Expo, the Sitka Seafood Festival aims to both celebrate and support our local seafood industry,” said Willow Moore, director of the festival. “I’m very grateful that we are able to continue to offer these workshops for free, thanks to the support of our sponsors and community.”

The educational events will be accompanied by nightly social gatherings, including the first ever “Fishermen’s Job Fair”, sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, an event that will be open to all where fishermen can mingle and look for prospective employers/crew. The job fair will be held at the Mean Queen at 5:30 PM on November 7th.

The majority of the events on November 7-9th will be held at Centennial Hall in Sitka. Visit alfafish.org for a detailed schedule, including presenters, locations, and workshop times.

Happy Alaska Day!

The following is courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior:

Alaska Day: Celebrating Alaska’s Transfer from Russia

October 18 is Alaska Day, the annual celebration of the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. When the initial purchase was announced in 1867, many Americans ridiculed the sale. However, in the 150 years since, Alaska’s incredible beauty and bountiful resources have proven it to be a valuable addition to our union.

There are over 222 million acres of public lands in Alaska and much of it is managed by the Interior Department. Here are just a few of Interior’s connection to the Last Frontier.

The highest peak in North America

A massive snow covered mountain rises about low brown foothills.
Denali means “the high one.” Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service.

Denali National Park and Preserve is home to North America’s tallest mountain and some of the most epic views you’ll ever see. Denali’s peak rises 20,310 feet into the Alaska sky and attracts climbers from around the world to challenge its summit. Denali also offers bus tours around the park, which provide visitors great wildlife viewing and a chance to explore this wild landscape.

Amazing cultural history

A smiling woman stands at an outdoor table with dried fish on it.
Mary Peltola, Executive Director of the Kuskokwim Intertribal Fish Commission, discusses the importance of salmon to people who live along the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Alaska is well known for its beautiful lands, but the state’s cultural history is just as fascinating. The first people came to North America across Alaska’s Bering Land Bridge more than 16,000 years ago. These early settlers migrated south across the Americas, though others stayed in this vast and open land. Today, Alaska is home to 229 federally recognized Alaska Native communities with more than 80,000 tribal members who speak over 20 different languages. Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has many programs that address the needs of Alaska Natives. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 allows Alaskans to document and protect cultural resources. The Housing Improvement Program is a home repair, renovation and new housing grant program for tribal members in Alaska that helps Alaska Natives stay on their traditional lands.

Incredible wildlife

Three brown bear cubs sit in a line in tall grass and sniff the air.
Brown bears at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lisa Hupp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Have you ever seen a caribou? How about a muskox? Alaska’s wildlife is amazing. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a humpback whale breaching or brown bears fishing for salmon or a bald eagle soaring over the forest. At national wildlife refuges, national parks and wilderness areas, you can experience the best of Alaska’s wildlife. Kenai National Wildlife Refugealone is a home to otters, moose, wolves, snowshoe hares, foxes and dozens of species of birds and fish. Katmai National Park and Preserve and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge are some of the best places in the world to see brown bears. If you love wildlife, Alaska is the place for you!

Leading the way on energy

An drilling platform stands above the still water of an ice covered ocean.
Offshore platforms in Alaska. Photo by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Alaska’s resources extend from its interior mountains to its extensive coastal seas. Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manages the development of energy off the coast of Alaska in an environmentally and economically responsible way. This means BOEM’s oil and gas leasing programs, environmental analysis and resource evaluation produce homegrown American energy. BOEM’s most recent lease sale on June 21, 2017, brought in over $3 million in high bids. In addition, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a 22.8 million-acre area on the state’s North Slope administered by Bureau of Land Management, is the largest block of federally managed land in the United States. Crude oil from onshore and offshore North Slope production is transported via the Trans–Alaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay through 800 miles of rugged terrain to the northernmost ice-free port in America at Valdez, Alaska.

The largest national park

An aerial photo of mountain ranges and massive glaciers cover a wide landscape running down to blue inlets.
An aerial photo of a small part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve’s massive landscape. Photo by National Park Service.

Combine the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks; now add in the entire area of Switzerland as well. No, it’s not another country, it’s the size of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Over 13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias contains opportunities unparalleled at other parks in the country. The superlatives for the park are almost unbelievable. It’s home to the nation’s second highest peak — the 18,008-foot tall Mount Elias — wide river valleys and a glacier larger than the state of Rhode Island. Add in amazing wildlife and volcanoes, and this park is an adventurer’s dream.

A sporting paradise

A man wearing outdoor gear and fishing with a rod and reel stands on a rock on the bank of a rushing river.
Fishing on the Delta Wild and Scenic River. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

Alaska’s refuges and preserves offer hunters and anglers a chance to find abundant game and fish in pristine environments. Famous for salmon, Alaska waters at places like Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge also provide a seemingly endless throng of steelhead, Dolly Varden, pike, trout and more. Hunters at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge enjoy the thrill of stalking big game like caribou and moose. Alaska has often been called America’s last wilderness. The concept is vividly real on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 16 national wildlife refuges that offer spectacular scenic and wildlife-related recreation. Find great camping at an RV or tent site or stay in a cabin. While some of the refuges can only be accessed by boat or plane, others are more accessible. These experiences are bracing, memorable and unmatched in almost any state. Be sure to comply with all state and federal regulations and obtain the necessary permits and licenses.

A true test of will

A narrow trail curves through a snow covered landscape of scattered trees and distant mountains.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail passes over some amazing Alaska views. Photo by Kevin Keeler, Bureau of Land Management.

The Iditarod National Historic Trail is a 2,300-mile system of trails that first connected Alaska Native villages and opened Alaska up for America’s last great gold rush. During Alaska’s 1880-1920 gold rush, the trail served as a cross-country winter trail for dog-sled teams. Today the trail hosts the famous dog-sled race traversing over 1,000 miles across the rugged Alaska tundra. The Iditarod is the only exclusively winter trail in the national trails system and is under the stewardship of the Bureau of Land Management, which maintains a number of shelter cabins along the route. For history buffs, the Iditarod’s rich history stretches throughout Alaska towns with stories all their own.

Reminders of the past

A wide, tan two story building with a red roof stands in a yard bordered with a wooden fence.
The Russian Bishop’s House at Sitka National Historical Park. Photo by National Park Service.

Sitka, then known as New Archangel, was the colonial capital of Alaska during most of the 126 years of Russian control. The October 18, 1867, transfer ceremony was held in Sitka, where the American flag was first raised over the future state. Today at Sitka National Historical Park, visitors can learn more about Alaska’s Russian period at the Russian Bishop’s House. It is one of the few surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America and was the center of Russian Orthodox Church authority in a diocese that stretched from California to Siberian Kamchatka.

Volcanoes

A huge cloud of smoke expands across the sky as it erupts from a cone shaped volcano on the shore of the ocean.
Augustine Volcano erupting in 2006. Photo by Cyrus Read, U.S. Geological Survey.

Violent volcanic eruptions shaped Alaska’s geography throughout its geological history. Today, eruptions from Alaska volcanoes pose a threat to local residents, cultural resources, and economic activities, as well as the international aviation sector. Luckily, the U.S. Geological Survey works to research, monitor and plan for volcano eruptions to protect the people of Alaska. As part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, USGS scientists monitor Alaskan volcanoes and provide timely, accurate information on volcano hazards and warning of dangerous activity.

Into the wild

A small group of canoes paddle on a wide river bordered by forests and mountains.
Canoeing on the Fortymile Wild and Scenic River. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 to conserve beautiful river segments in their natural, untamed state for future generations. Over 200 river segments in 40 states exist as part of the system, providing plenty of adventures. In Alaska, the Bureau of Land Management protects six rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Birch Creek RiverBeaver Creek RiverDelta RiverFortymile RiverGulkana River and Unalakleet River are all stunning examples of Alaska’s outdoor beauty and great places to float, fish, pan for gold and explore.

Rivers of ice

A large group of people stand on the deck of a ship looking across a bay where a glacier runs down from a mountain into the water.
Visitors on a ship at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Photo by National Park Service.

From sea to summit, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve’s 3.3 million acres offers abundant opportunities for adventure, inspiration and exploration. The park’s rich marine and terrestrial life is the result of glacial retreat, demonstrating this land’s resilience and adaptable nature. Glacier Bay is a marine park where many glaciers flow in from tall surrounding mountains. In the summer, huge sections of ice plunge from the faces of glaciers into the bay. This dramatic sight is a popular tourist attraction for thousands of people passing by on cruise ships.

Four-legged rangers

A dozen large dogs pull a sled across a snowy plain with a forest and mountains in the background.
The sled dog team at Denali National Park and Preserve. Photo by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service.

Just in case you need another reason to visit Alaska, Denali National Park and Preserve is the only national park in the U.S. with a working dog team. Sled dogs have held an essential role in the life and culture of Alaska for thousands of years, and Denali’s team helps protect visitors, wildlife, scenery and wilderness. We also think they’re super cute!

The Last Frontier offers pure wilderness unlike anything else in the United States. Huge peaks, glacier-filled valleys and abundant wildlife set this state apart. Alaska’s rich history provides another stunning layer to this state’s incredible resume. Don’t miss out on an Alaska adventure!

Here’s one more photo for you: Denali’s 2017 litter of puppies.

Five furry puppies walk together on a path through the woods.
The 2017 litter of puppies at Denali National Park and Preserve. Photo by National Park Service.

Schnabel And Hoffman Go Head To Head In New Gold Rush Season

The above video clip features a preview to tonight’s season opener of Gold Rush.  Former ASJ cover subject Parker Schnabel and fellow miner Todd Hoffman will square off this season. Here’s Discovery Channel with more:

Parker Schnabel (top) and Todd Hoffman will be in a heated competition this year on Gold Rush. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

 

The gold miners of Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH are back. And this year, the rivalry among the miners has reached new levels. But will they be able to put their money where their mouth is? GOLD RUSH returns with a 2-hour premiere on Friday, October 13 at 9 PM ET/PT on Discovery.

Before the new mining season even kicks off, gold miner Todd Hoffman lays everything on the line and wagers a massive bet with 22-year-old Parker Schnabel. The ever-confident Todd believes he can pull in the most gold this season. If not, he owes Parker 100 ounces of gold worth over $100,000 dollars. This sets off a head-to-head competition for the season between these two rivals.

It’s a bold move for Todd, especially after last year’s disaster. Todd’s 5,000-ounce goal was shattered in Oregon, where he began last season, and his crew went into a meltdown. This season, Todd and his crew are in Colorado where he is joined by his father, Jack, and 18-year-old son Hunter. This year, Todd believes that he’ll be the ultimate mine boss by running three plants at the same time – a challenge no gold miner has ever pulled off in the series. Meanwhile, Hunter demands a promotion and wants to run his own operation. But will he be able to handle the pressure?

In the Klondike, young Parker Schnabel meets with his long-time, dedicated crew and fills them in on the wager with the Hoffmans. However, this isn’t the only battle for Parker. He’s going to war on two fronts – not just with Todd, but his landlord Tony Beets, aka “The Viking.” Over four years, Tony has taken $2.3 million in royalties. This season, Parker has a plan to buy his freedom with a deal on new virgin ground. Parker doesn’t underestimate anyone as he knows mining is as much about perseverance as it is about luck. But first Parker needs to get his ice-bound washplant Big Red up and running – since every day not sluicing gives Todd and Tony a head start in the race for gold.

Meanwhile, legendary Klondike miner Tony Beets is back and continues his on-going obsession with dredges. Last year, his plan to move and resurrect a 75-year-old dredge proved to be a big failure. But “The Viking” never gives up. This year, he and his family set the goal to move Dredge #2 and get it mining for gold. He has everything in place, but first needs to convince legendary mine boss Sheamus Christie to help him move it. But even for Sheamus, moving a 500-ton dredge is a first.

At 8 PM ET/PT, just before the official GOLD RUSH season premiere, Discovery will broadcast an all-new live event featuring Todd, Parker and Tony. Anything can happen in this special one hour live broadcast where the mine bosses will dish stories about what really went down and discuss season highlights as they field real-time audience phone calls and Facebook questions throughout the broadcast.

New crew members, unexpected equipment failures and heated rivalries prove no two seasons are alike in Discovery’s hit series GOLD RUSH. Each week, the gold total will be tallied, pushing the miners to their limits to prove who is ultimately on top. And for viewers who want to catch up on prior seasons, GOLD RUSH is available to binge on Discovery GO, the network’s live and on demand TV Everywhere streaming service, and through TV providers – free with their subscription.

GOLD RUSH is produced for Discovery Channel by Raw Television, where Dimitri Doganis, James Bates and Mike Gamson are executive producers and Tim Dalby and Edward Gorsuch are series producers. For Discovery Channel, Matthew Vafiadis is executive producer and Greg Wolf is associate producer.

Edge Of Alaska Shows A Whole New Side Of Last Frontier

Photo by Discovery Channel

It’s a busy time for our friends at the Discovery Channel, which is beginning new seasons of several of its popular Alaska-based series (look for a couple stories in our November issue).

I had a chance to get a sneak preview of Edge of Alaskawhich had irked some residents of rugged frontier town of McCarthy when it was first announced but has enjoyed a nice run on Discovery. This marks is the final of four Edge of Alaska seasons, and the show premiered last week and continues with another episode on Sunday night (check your local listings).

Neil Darish photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel

Here’s Discovery’s release:

In 1999, Jeremy Keller ventured to McCarthy to escape present society in exchange for beautiful, remote scenery and isolation. Years later, Jeremy is embarking on his most ambitious project yet – establishing a completely self-sufficient homestead to sustain his family legacy for generations. But to achieve his dreams of a fully-functional homestead, he will have to barter hard work and fair exchange with other locals, including longtime rival Neil Darish.

After years of working to transform McCarthy into a tourist attraction, Neil Darish is looking to sell his many McCarthy properties in the hopes of a big payday. The preparation requires months of repair and upgrade, requiring him to barter with farmsteaders like Jeremy Keller. As Neil prepares for a major sale and Jeremy works tirelessly to complete his homestead, tensions rise as the two adversaries travel down an explosive collision course towards the finish line.

The final season of EDGE OF ALASKA experiences journeys more dangerous than ever. The residents of McCarthy must traverse treacherous terrain and rely on instinctive Alaskan bush ingenuity to preserve their life in the frontier town.  But as devoted residents prepare for enormous change, their dream of isolation nearly costs them everything – including their lives.

CNN On Bristol Bay Salmon Versus Mining Project

Photo by user “echoforsberg”/Wikimedia

Since the President Donald Trump-led Environmental Protection Agency has suggested it will allow the mining of Bristol Bay after the Obama-era EPA thought twice about it given the region’s ecosystem as one of the planet’s most critical salmon watersheds, the battle of salmon fishermen versus miners is again being waged.

CNN chimed in about the controversy in a story published today on the network’s website:

Here are reporters  John D. Sutter and Scott Bronstein with more:

The salmon’s incredible migration also sustains people: Nearly half of the world’s sockeye catch comes from this one region, which is one of the last, great salmon fisheries on Earth. The returning salmon and other ecological resources create some 14,000 full- and part-time jobs, generate about $480 million annually — and support 4,000-year-old Alaska Native cultures.
Now, however, Quinn and others fear this cycle could be strained if not broken.
For more than 15 years, Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian mining company, has sought to build a gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay. And this spring, the Trump administration took swift action to make that prospect more likely.
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt met on May 1 with the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of the mining company, CNN reported on September 22 based on interviews and government emails. Little more than an hour later, according to internal emails, the administrator directed his staff to reverse Obama-era protections for Bristol Bay, which had been created after years of scientific review. Based on that work, the previous administration had aimed to pre-emptively veto certain mining activities in the ecologically important region.
The story also made clear that some Alaskans will surely approve or at least tolerate the project if it ever gets off the ground (though you can expect there will be quite a fight from conservationists both inside and outside the state). Here’s more from CNN:
It’s unclear exactly what percentage of Alaskans would support mining in Bristol Bay. But in a 2014 statewide ballot, two-thirds of voters chose to give the Alaska legislature power to approve or veto large-scale mining projects in the area if the projects threaten fisheries.
Some Alaskans do support the Pebble project because of the economic jolt it could bring. The EPA’s 2014 assessment says the mine would employ more than 1,000 people during its lifespan, and more than 2,000 people during the shorter construction phase. The mine would be expected to create $300 billion to $500 billion in revenue over the life of the project, the EPA estimated.
Initially, Thomas Tilden, a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and first chief of the Curyung Tribal Council, in the Bristol Bay area, was impressed by these arguments, too.
Tilden says he’s not anti-development. His father was a gold miner from California. But after the mine was first proposed, he said, he started touring mines that had been shut down.
He saw pools of toxic water, massive piles of waste-rock. At one mine in Nevada, he said, he was told to cover his shoes for fear he would track dust laden with heavy metals home — and “not to have any contact with that dust with our eyes, not to touch any of the water.”
This a fight that could go on for a while. But with the EPA as it is now,  friends of fish might be relegated to the back seat.

Fresh or Frozen? One Alaska Fishing Group Weighs In

Photo by Paul Atkins

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

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) was recently awarded a major grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood.

The competitive grant was awarded by USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program, which works to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.

ALFA has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since launch of its Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program, Alaskans Own, in 2009.  Alaskans Own provides high quality, frozen seafood to customers in Alaska and the lower 48.

“Many Alaskans are used to putting up seafood for the winter in their own freezers, and understand the high quality of carefully-handled flash frozen fish,” says Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA. “However, many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality- -and for the environment”.

According to Ecotrust, a conservation organization based in Portland, “twenty-three percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it the dinner plate and goes to waste”. Frozen seafood often has increased quality and freshness, can reduce waste, and has a lower carbon footprint.

ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood. The study utilized a new device, created by Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.

The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR”.

With these results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA will create a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. It will also provide training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs. ALFA will also work with partners at the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust to launch a market-place portal where users can find and purchase local seafood and other sustainably-sourced goods.

Idaho Man Collects Check For More Than $15,000 For Homer Halibut Derby Win

Homer Halibut Derby

Congrats to Idaho’s Sam Mills, who brought home a cool $15,000 and change for winning the recently concluded Homer Halibut derby.

Mills and his wife Katrina accept the winnings. Photo by Karen Howorth/Homer Chamber of Commerce

Here’s more from our friends at the Homer Chamber of Commerce:

The 2017 Jackpot winner is Sam Mills of St. Maries, Idaho, whose halibut weighed in at 240.0 pounds.  Sam and his wife Katrina returned to Homer for the awards ceremony to accept Sam’s check for $15,241.  Sam was fishing on the peninsula in July while Katrina was at home for their anniversary, she came accompanied Sam as a belated anniversary gift.

Sam’s charter captain, Captain Chris Andrews of the Nautilus II of Alaska Coastal Marine, was responsible for helping Sam catch the BIG ONE. He was awarded $1524.10 for doing so. Rosanna Hunting from Central Charters was awarded $1000 for selling the winning derby ticket.
There were 10,482 tickets sold which included 173 youth tickets.  In early spring, sponsors and volunteer captains tagged and released over 75 halibut in preparation for the 2017 season.  Tagged fish were valued at $250, $500 and $1,000.  Anglers who caught a prior year tag received $100.  There were three 2017 tagged fish caught paying out a total of $2,500; one 2016 tag and two 2015 tags caught.
Unfortunately, no anglers caught the $10,000 Homer Chamber of Commerce or $50,000 GCI tagged fish this year.  Five youth winners were drawn at the “After Season Party” Wednesday, September 20, 2017.