Hunters waiting for a mountain goat registration hunt on the Kenai Peninsula this year can throw their cleats, binoculars and gunny sacks back into the storage closet.
For the first time in more than two decades, there will be no goat registration hunts on the peninsula following this year’s drawing hunts, said Thomas McDonough, assistant area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“Around 25 to 30 hunt areas on the Kenai that open for a drawing permit for mountain goats (each year),” he said. “But typically, after the drawing season anywhere from a couple to eight or 10 of those areas open for a registration hunt.”
This year, however, all of the peninsula’s hunt areas failed to meet four criteria that would have allowed Fish and Game to open them to a registration goat hunt.
To be opened to a registration hunt, a hunting area must support a minimum of 60 goats, survey data must be less than two years old or indicate an increasing population trend, and the area’s population cannot decline by more than 25 percent over a 10- to 15-year period.
In addition, no more than three goat units can be harvested from a hunt area during the draw hunt. A female goat equals two units and a male goat one unit.
This year’s peninsula drawing hunts ended Oct. 15 and, although not all of the hunters have reported back to Fish and Game, McDonough said this year’s harvest looks like it will be close to the average peninsula harvest of 63 goats.
Each of the hunt areas is unique and no one criteria can be credited for disqualifying them all from opening to registration hunters, but McDonough said the most notable disqualifying criteria was population decline.
The overall population of peninsula goats has declined more than 30 percent in the last 15 years.
McDonough estimated the current peninsula goat population could be as low as 2,500, down from approximately 4,000 in the early 1990s.
According to Fish and Game, goat populations need to be managed conservatively because they tend to reproduce slowly. Nannies rarely give birth to more than one kid in a year. Goats can live as long as 15 years, but typically live less than 12.
While the department errs on the side of caution, McDonough said he doesn’t believe the recent decline is cause for alarm.
“As with most wildlife populations there are long-term fluctuations over time,” he said. “There could be a network of factors that are working in concert and could be negatively impacting the population. The habitat is quite diverse on the Kenai Peninsula, so some areas are doing well, some areas are increasing population size. But overall the numbers are down.”
The peninsula’s goats have rebounded from similarly low population numbers in the past, he said.
The peninsula’s goat population in the 1970s was about the same as it is today and then steadily climbed until it peaked in the early 1990s. Since the 1990s the population has been in decline.
Patrice Kohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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