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M. Scott Moon
A moose browses near Cook Inlet. Fish and Game conducted a moose census of Game Management Unit 15A, the area of the Peninsula north of Sterling. The census determined a 40-percent decrease of the area's moose populations since the '90s.

Culling all moose

Moose populations plunge on north Kenai Peninsula

Posted: November 5, 2012 - 9:28am

Four moose were harvested in Game Management Unit 15A on the Kenai Peninsula last year, said Ted Spraker, acting chair of the Alaska Board of Game.

“This is the same area that used to have upwards of 350, 360 moose taken in some years,” he said. “In the last decade it’s just been steadily going down and down and down.”

When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted a moose census in February 2008 in Unit 15A, the area of the Peninsula north of Sterling and west of the mountains, it counted about 2,000 moose — about 40 percent less than census findings in the ’90s, said Thomas McDonough, a Homer-based Fish and Game research biologist.

The two factors culling moose population in 15A, McDonough said, are habitat and predators.

In 1969 a forest fire swept through much of 15A, replenishing and sustaining food for the moose through 1980 and 1990, McDonough said.

“When you get a fire, you get a whole change in the plant composition,” he said “... Those early successional stages are what produces really highly quality moose food.”

However, the moose have long since eaten much of the available food, he said.

“Without fire to rejuvenate habitat, you get predictable decline in moose numbers,” he said, “and Fish and Game staff in the late ’80s and ’90s fully predicted we’d be in the situation we’re in now.”

To bolster moose’s supplies of food, McDonough said Fish and Game will fell certain types of old trees this winter, such as aspen. He said it will be a small-scale operation that will encourage new root development, a good source of food for moose.

“If you cut certain areas and leave certain areas untouched, it creates a real mosaic of habitat types, which is good for a diversity of wildlife, not just moose,” he said.

McDonough said Fish and Game will discuss further options this winter.

To address the predator aspect, the Board of Game passed a proposal in a January 2012 meeting to approve intensive management actions in areas of 15A and 15C, Kenai Area Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger said. Those actions could include aerial wolf gunning, Division Director of Fish and Game Doug Vincent-Lang said.

“It allows us to do aerial wolf control,” he said, “but there are many other tools (in the box).”

The approval grants only Fish and Game permission to kill wolf populations, not the public, Spraker said.

“Now what we do have and what has been proven in all of our predator control programs is that if we can temporarily reduce the number of wolves — in other words, if we could take about 60 to 70 percent of the wolves in an area — it makes a profound effect on (moose) calf survival,” he said.

Action on the initiative is currently postponed, pending further population studies, McDonough said. Vincent-Lang said Fish and Game will “probably” not implement any form of wolf control this winter.

Fish and Game is conducting further moose population studies in 15A, and it will release its findings this winter.

The new information will determine how Fish and Game responds to the diminishing moose population in the future, McDonough said.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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Seafarer
1147
Points
Seafarer 11/05/12 - 05:00 pm
2
0
Lack of Moose

More Wolf killing? What we need is more BEAR culling!

EDIT: Scott Moon, that picture is fantastic! I hope to buy a copy? I would be proud to hang that in my cabin.

kenai-king
232
Points
kenai-king 11/05/12 - 06:21 pm
0
0
Moose

Geez Spraker how do you like your Bear pets now. No Brown Bear season only 2 Black Bear one in the spring one in the fall I know it has changed now but I think allot of this is your guy's fault. No landing on the lakes for trapping in the Moose range and on and on and on.

907nomad
29
Points
907nomad 11/05/12 - 10:25 pm
0
0
Wolves are the problem? Really?!?

I agree with Seafarer. Never hear of wolf killings in defense of life and property. Never have seen a wolf down here. I'm not saying they're not down here, but it seems we hear much more about trouble with bears; maulings, raidings, DOLP killings....

Let's be honest about the predation problem...

BigRedDog
659
Points
BigRedDog 11/06/12 - 07:38 am
1
0
Wolf on Beaver Loop

Just this spring at least one wolf was working the flats and crossed the road in front of me just west of Barabara Str. BIG grey wolf gone in a blink, that's what might be keeping those birthing Caribou of the flats. But bear are still a major contributor to calf predation will always play a major role in population decline. One huge area that used to hold a lot of moose is gone, taken over by black and brown bear. That area is our beloved Skylak Lake Loop, been out there lately? There used to be moose everywhere along Skylak Loop and now you won't see nothing but bear scat!! That's all that's left of those calves when the bear population discovers hunters don't mess with you over here! That must be a great success for the program to increase wildlife veiwing in an area by not allowing hunter control of preditors, and they eat you out of house and home, or is that calves?
Feel brave, I'll double dogged dare you to pitch a tent at upper or lower Ulmer lake campground! Engineer Lake camp ground drive is over grown due lack of use from bear activity. I'd bet an overnight on the Engineer Lake overlook parking lot would be confrontational. I think more than a few brown bear feel that is their side of the road. But don't go to your favorite rabbit hunting spot because it's on the south side of the road! So just when is the DF&G going to relent on the small game hunting ban of Skylak Loop Road? Ohe there is no ban just bring a young hunter under the age of 16 and your cool. But all the folks I know that age are in school during the week and my weekends are my busy. And the road warriors of the weekend are to great in number for me to feel safe. Just whose brilliant idea was it to close hunting in this area? Was it a trade for Federal or State money to improve Hidden Lake campground and Road?
The only thing You'll see while driving the Skylak Loop today is cyotes, black bear, and a lot of eagles and ravens. NO moose, yea preditor (human type) control really works well for eatablishing 4 legged preditor population. Once those preditor bear,wolf, cyotes, and Linx figure they have found a home they win.

Watchman on the Wall
2893
Points
Watchman on the Wall 11/06/12 - 08:53 am
1
0
The second killer

Bears are #1 and Road kills are #2 or possibly reverse this order for still the top 2.
My church has gotten road kills of 2 four month olds and 1 1 yr old this summer/fall and i know for certain that we were not the only ones to get 3+ calls for road kills.
Personally i think moose are coming to the people to escape all the bears and the bears are now coming to the city to eat all the moose which explains why bears walk up and down our streets as often as they do. It's not trash left out that draws these bears to town, they just happen to also go trash can shopping or eat foods left out for our domestic animals while moose hunting in town.

potomac
191
Points
potomac 11/09/12 - 09:42 am
1
0
the real problem doesn't even rate here??

there are no large fires, no young willow, aspen, etc. nothing to eat, you can't raise anything without food. Look at some old pictures and do a little research, with all the mini developments all over traditional moose range , remote cabins, etc. controlled burns are out. The F&G used to feed pellets to moose, a lot of things have changed, road kill by it's self is enough to stop any kind of population climb. Toxic plants and trees in town planted by folks who don't have a clue, loose dogs kill countless unborn calves and young chasing moose. Sure bears , mostly black bears by the way, put a big dent in the calf crop, you can see them following the cows around anywhere on the Peninsula in the May and June. It still leads back to food source, you could kill every last predator and they would still eventually die off, some of the best hunting was the old burns which are full of dead willows and bonzi trees moose have been eating the shoots off for years, now mostly dead or soon to die and spruce taking over. Did the F&G or the Refuge used to run limbers and choppers all over the Peninsula to increase brouse???

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