Season treated Southeast Alaska hunters well last year

Posted: Wednesday, March 06, 2002

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) -- Southern Southeast Alaska hunters had a good season last year. The Etolin and Zarembo islands elk harvest took the most bulls ever in 2001, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Games Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Nineteen bulls were killed within the drawing permit area, where an elk population from Oregon and Washington was transplanted in 1987. Of the 19 bulls killed, one was taken by a bow hunter.

''The 19 bulls were near our target harvest,'' said Boyd Porter, wildlife biologist for Fish and Game. ''We targeted about 20 to 25 bulls.''

Within the drawing permit area there are about 350 elk, said Porter. And there are 122 permit holders for that particular hunt. Of the 122 permit holders, 98 participated in 2001.

''A fair number of bulls are being killed around the beaches, but we also are seeing more hearty hunters, hiking up and flying into some of the upper alpine areas,'' Porter said. ''And a number of bulls have been killed up in the higher elevations over the past couple of years.''

Etolin and Zarembo islands are north of Ketchikan, just east of the northern tip of Prince of Wales Island. A few elk from the two islands have made their way across Clarence Strait to Prince of Wales Island and across Ernest Sound to Cleveland Peninsula.

Fish and Game is studying the competition between the transplanted elk and the deer population, said Porter. Unlike down south, where feedlots can increase the availability of food during the winter, the deer and elk compete here, he said.

''We know that there are a few animals dispersing, but the idea right now is to keep that population contained on Etolin and Zarembo islands so we can learn more about the competition among elk and deer there,'' Porter said.

The elk population is increasing, and at some point it could become an open registration hunt, Porter said.

Much like the elk population, the deer population also is thriving, at least on Prince of Wales. Between 2,800 and 3,000 deer were harvested on the island in 2001.

''Unit 2 -- Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands -- has seen really good hunting,'' Porter said. In the past two years, he said, the department has had reports from Prince of Wales that people are seeing the most deer ever from the road system during the spring and summer months.

While deer populations are on the rise, hunting opportunities on the island for Ketchikan residents could be on the decline. Two proposals before the Federal Subsistence Board are aimed at limiting hunting opportunities for non-island residents.

One proposal would cut the deer bag limit from four to two for residents of Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg, while increasing POW residents limit from four to five. Another proposal would exclude Ketchikan residents from hunting for deer on Prince of Wales for the entire month of August and from Oct. 15 through Nov. 15.

Those are the best times of the year to hunt deer, said Porter. Ketchikan residents harvest an average of 25 percent of the deer from POW, said Porter. So if the proposals are adopted it could have an effect on other surrounding deer hunts.

The two proposals were submitted by the Craig Community Association, the Hydaburg Community Association and the Organized Village of Kasaan IRA. They claim the proposals are needed because an increase in hunters is limiting subsistence user opportunities to harvest enough deer. Fish and Game contends the proposals are unnecessary because the deer population on the island is stable, Porter said.

However, unlike POW, the deer populations on Revilla Island and Cleveland Peninsula are not thriving. Harsh weather during the 1998-1999 winter took a toll on the deer populations in those two areas, said Porter.

As for the goat population on Revilla Island, it's healthy. In Unit 1A, which encompasses Revilla Island and some of the mainland area, 27 goats were harvested in 2001. That's three more than in 2000, and 16 more than in 1999. In 1983, 17 goats were moved from Misty Fiords to the Reid Mountain-Swan Lake area at the head of Carroll Inlet. That population has grown to between 150 and 200 goats, said Porter.

Another goat transplant was done in 1991. A few goats were moved from Misty Fiords to the Deer Mountain area, and have increased to between 120 and 150 goats, said Porter. However, there is no open season for those goats.

Moose yields along the Unuk River average three bulls a year, and that is what was taken in 2001. Based on aerial surveys during the winter, Fish and Game estimates the population along the Unuk is between 30 and 50 moose.

Three brown bears were harvested in Unit 1A last season. That's two fewer than in 2000 and 10 fewer than in 1999.

In an attempt to get a population estimate, Fish and Game has started lacing bait with a tetracycline biomarker that will mark the tissue of bones and teeth when eaten by the bears, said Porter. The substance is visible through a fluorescent microscope. Fish and Game plans to collect toe bones and teeth from harvested bears to estimate the population.

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