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Committee opposes subsistence hunt

Posted: Wednesday, January 09, 2008

For approximately three decades, trophy hunters have attempted to protect the moose population near Tustumena Lake by instituting hunts based on drawing permits only. Now a federal subsistence proposal would undermine their efforts by allowing subsistence hunters to take any bull moose regardless of antler size.

The Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee listed biology as one of the main reasons it would not support federal subsistence proposal 08-22 and will be drafting a letter to present at the Regional Subsistence Advisory Council's meeting in March.

According to the Federal Subsistence Management Program's wildlife proposal book for 2008-2010, proposal 08-22 seeks to allow residents of Cooper Landing, Ninilchik, Nanwalek, Port Graham and Seldovia to reestablish traditional and customary subsistence use by taking one bull in game management Units 7, 15A and 15B from Aug. 10 to Sept. 20 and Oct. 10 to Nov. 10. The proposal also seeks to allow subsistence hunters from Cooper Landing, Ninilchik, Nanwalek, Port Graham and Seldovia to take one antlered bull moose with a spike-fork or 50-inch antlers in game management Unit 15C.

Jeff Selinger, wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told advisory committee members at their Monday meeting that opening a moose hunt late in the season to any bull regardless of antler size could negatively affect the moose population on the Kenai Peninsula. The harvest would occur right after the rutting season when moose are trying to eat enough to sustain them through early winter. Moose are exhausted at that time of year and they're hungry and being stressed further because of hunters isn't healthy for the animal, Selinger said.

"The bigger downfall is the disturbance to bulls trying to recover after that first rut," Selinger said. "(There is) more potential of animals not making it through the winter."

Gary Dawkins, advisory committee chair, said selecting bigger bulls when they're in a rut isn't good if you're hunting for meat either. When moose don't eat, he said their liver shuts down, which releases toxins into the meat. By writing a letter, the advisory committee would let the subsistence board know that it's against both liberalizing the moose hunt near Tustumena Lake and adding additional opportunities to other units on the Kenai Peninsula.

Allowing subsistence hunters to hunt between Oct. 10 and Nov. 10 is giving them an extra season in addition to the 32-day general hunt, Dawkins said. The rut is a time when moose are vulnerable and if they get chased around too much with a minimal amount of food the stress alone could kill them.

"For Unit 7 in that late season just right after the rut, it's easy hunting. You can rub two pans (together) and they'll come," he said. "Once they get in that mode they're severely dumb."

Paul Shadura, holder of the commercial fishing seat on the advisory committee, said he doesn't think there is sufficient data on the moose population for the proposed hunt area to support giving subsistence hunters an additional hunting season. Doing so without good science, he said, could be detrimental to the moose population as a whole.

The Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Committee's decision to oppose this proposal coincides with opposition from the Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee. Marvin Peters, chair for the Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee, said the committee was unanimous in opposing this proposal and sent a letter to the Southcentral Regional Advisory Council. The hunt would only benefit a select few, Peters said, allowing federal subsistence hunters to trophy hunt for moose late in the season. If the advisory committee is unsuccessful at stopping the hunt, then it seeks to destroy the trophy value of the moose by making it mandatory for hunters to destroy its antlers.

"(The proposed hunt) is biologically unsound," he said, contending that the month-long general hunt should be enough for anybody. "We've got a spike-fork 50 system that's working really well. We've got better bull moose numbers than we've had and this thing just takes the bottom right out of the system and leaves the biggest, most vulnerable bulls available to be taken."

Selinger said the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee would have to get its letter prepared within a week in time to present it at the subsistence board's meeting. Committee vice chair Mike Crawford volunteered to draft a letter based on the concerns the committee put forth and Ed Moeglein, who holds the committee's subsistence seat, said he would present it.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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