The 2000 moose season on the Kenai Peninsula is expected to be on par or a little above last year's total with management areas seeing both growth and decline, local wildlife managers said this week.
"Overall, I would say hunting will be slightly better for moose this year," said Department of Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis. "We had a total harvest of 350 last year and we are expecting 450 this year."
And while most hunters traded fishing rods for rifles Sunday as the season began in earnest, finding a legal bull in management Unit 15 could be a matter of location. The archery season ended Aug. 17, while the rifle season ends Sept. 20.
Hunters targeting southern Kenai Peninsula moose populations should fare better in filling their freezers this fall than those in the northern regions. Lewis said milder winters in the lower third of management Unit 15, or 15C, have allowed more calves to survive and become legal spike bulls.
"About 50 percent of the total harvest comes from there (15C)," Lewis said. "We're seeing milder winters that are allowing them to grow."
The 15C management area stretches from the Kasilof River south to the Chugach Islands, at the tip of the peninsula.
Lewis contrasted the available numbers in 15C with that of Unit 15A, north of Sterling. He said the area would probably see a decline because of two hard winters that eliminated many calves that would later become spike bulls.
"I would characterize 15A as stable to declining," Lewis said. "The spike-fork (moose) is 40 to 60 percent of the harvest traditionally, and if they go away, that cuts into your harvest."
The same prediction on average moose numbers came from Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Manager Robin West, who said, so far, hunting on the refuge has been slow.
"It was slow during the archery season and has been during the early rifle season," West said. "It's because of the warm weather. The moose are just not as active as they get when the cooler weather sets in.
"Last year, we lost a number of calves that would have been legal," West said.
He said calves don't retain fat reserves when they are feeding and growing in their first year and are the first in the population to succumb to the weather when extreme cold or deep snow sets in.
For hunters seeking a bit of added adventure, Lewis said, Fish and Game is offering a registration-only moose hunt on Kalgin Island in Cook Inlet. The hunt runs through Sept. 30. Hunters must register at the regional Fish and Game offices and Lewis said an unlimited number of permits are available.
"We have a population estimate of around 60 to 80 moose on the island," Lewis said. "We would like to have it down around 25."
Lewis said moose were introduced to the island in the 1950s and face no predators.
"It's a tough area to hunt, but the moose are there," Lewis said.
In other seasons of note, Lewis said caribou permit holders in the Killey River and Kenai Mountains areas should have a good opportunity to get an animal. He said the caribou population in the Kenai Mountains area totals around 400.
For bird hunters, the grouse and ptarmigan seasons began Aug. 10.
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