One of the proposals is to reduce the Western Arctic Caribou harvest for local subsistence hunters from five animals a day to four a year, with only one allowed to be a cow. Another proposal is to restrict harvest for hunters not living in the range of the herd — such as fly-in hunters.
“It’s gonna affect everybody,” said Vern Cleveland Sr., the group’s chair and a resident of Noorvik. “The proposal we passed, I hope they get through. This is to help out our caribou and our people. … The caribou is declining big time so we have to act.”
The long-term proposals were sent to both the Alaska Board of Game and the Federal Subsistence Board earlier this year, and there has been a comment period since then. State and federal managers will decide on the proposals during their upcoming meetings in January and spring, respectively.
It is not just the number of caribou hunted that’s important to the herd’s potential recovery, Hansen stressed in his presentation. It is also important to avoid taking females out of the population, he said.
“One cow has a lot of potential to produce more caribou,” he said. The message in his PowerPoint presentation was boiled down to a succinct phrase: “Let cows live.”
But Hansen acknowledged that there are reasons that some hunters might prefer to target cows during their harvests, which tend to be in autumn, when the bulls are hormonally charged and geared toward mating.
“Cows are fat. They’re better to eat. Nobody wants to eat a rutty bull,” he said.