Emergency order closes winter moose hunt near McGrath

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The winter moose hunt near the Interior town of McGrath has been canceled because there are too few bull moose, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Wednesday.

The hunt in eastern Unit 19D had been scheduled for the first two weeks in December.

The emergency order closing the hunt was the second one issued in two years to cancel the winter hunt in the 5,200-square-mile game unit which holds only one moose for every 2.8 square miles.

''We are at risk for potentially not having enough bulls to adequately breed any cows that are still around,'' said regional biologist Toby Boudreau in McGrath.

A team appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles is looking at ways to boost the moose population aroundthe community. McGrath residents have been complaining about low moose populations for years.

An aerial survey in October following the September fall hunt found an estimated 1,863 moose in the game unit, Boudreau said. There were roughly 37 bulls per 100 cows.

While the ratio didn't look bad, Boudreau said, many of those bulls were in an area inaccessible to hunters.

The ratio of bulls to cows was far worse in a 520-square-mile experimental study area within Unit 19D. That area near McGrath is where moose have been most plentiful and most heavily hunted. The survey found an estimated 530 moose in the study area, but a ratio of only 18 bulls per 100 cows. One area showed a ratio of six bulls per 100 cows.

Biologists like to see a ratio of 30 bulls per 100 cows.

''We can't sustain any more harvest out of there,'' Boudreau said

Fish and Game would like to see between 3,000 and 3,500 moose in the entire Unit 19D East, with harvest levels of 130 to 150 a year.

Mike Fleagle, chief of the McGrath Native Village Council, said cancelation of the winter hunt comes as no surprise to the more than 400 people of McGrath.

''You got to protect the resource,'' he said. ''It is one of those necessary evils.''

But the closure will be hard on families, especially those who did not get a moose during the fall hunt, said tribal administrator Theresa Williams.

''Moose is what we eat. We live and breathe for moose season,'' Williams said. ''We're going to be eating snow.''

Boudreau said McGrath residents might try the Dec. 1 to Dec. 31 hunt in Unit 19D south of the Selatna River, about 75 miles from McGrath. He said there's also a Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 moose hunt in subunit 19C about 90 miles by snowmachine from the town.

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