Antlerless moose hunting in the Minto Flats Management Area portion of Game Management Unit 20B will close at 11:59 p.m. tonight, because hunters are expected to meet this year’s quota of 20 moose.
As of Monday, hunter reports reported that 14 cow moose had been taken since the season opened on Oct. 15, according to a news release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Fairbanks Area Biologist Tony Hollis said that warm weather has allowed the harvest to be steady over the last couple weeks.
“I anticipate that hunters will have taken 20 cows by Friday,” said Hollis, via the release.
Regulations require hunters to return their harvest reports within two days of harvesting a moose. Hunters may report on the internet at bit.ly/2LQr8QJ, or in person or by phone to the Fairbanks ADF&G office at 907-459-7206. Unsuccessful hunters must return their reports within 15 days of the close of the season.
Questions over the future of the hunt
The Minto Flats Antlerless Moose Hunt was started in 2013 with the aim of targeting cow moose to reduce the numbers of moose in an area where overpopulation was threatening the habitat. The quota, which was once as high as 100 cows, has been dropping over the years as the population has shrunk to more sustainable levels. In an antlerless hunt, hunters can shoot cows, bull calves or bulls that have shed their antlers.
The hunt must be reauthorized annually by the state Board of Game and the department intends to continue the hunt next year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has submitted a proposal to do just that for the Board of Game’s 2020 meeting cycle. Proposal 140 would reauthorize the antlerless moose seasons in Unit 20B.
One of the primary goals of the antlerless hunt is to keep moose numbers within the population objectives of 12,000-15,000 animals. In Unit 20B, this has been effective — the population declined from an estimated 20,173 moose in 2009 to 11,064 in 2015. In 2017, the population increased slightly to 12,871 moose. The department will continue to monitor the population and may implement additional antlerless hunts if the population continues to trend upward.
In the Minto Flats area specifically, the population level has been stable in recent years, which is why the quota has been reduced to approximately 1% of the total number of moose in the area to maintain the current population level.
According to the proposal, the goal of antlerless hunts isn’t just to manage the moose population and habitat, but also to “provide subsistence hunters with a reasonable opportunity to pursue moose for subsistence uses without reducing bull-to-cow ratios.”
An antlerless hunt also takes place in the Fairbanks Management Area, in part because the formerly large moose population resulted in an increase in moose-vehicle collisions. The hunt has somewhat mitigated this, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Not everyone is in agreement with the department however; in fact, some residents believe the population of moose in the Minto Flats area is now too small. A number of other proposals for the Board of Game’s upcoming meetings suggest eliminating the hunt in the Minto Flats area completely.
Proposal 141, for example, from the Tanana Rampart Manley Fish and Game Advisory Committee, expressed concern over the “increased wolf population.”
“Local observations and real-time hunting success in my area are demonstrating that moose are not as plentiful in our area as they once were,” the proposal states. “We are having difficulty meeting our needs during the traditional hunting season.”
Proposals 142 and 143, both submitted by Anna Frank, likewise suggest eliminating the hunt in the Minto Flats area due to concerns over declines in population.
“The winter antlerless moose hunt no longer has the support of local residents who have observed declines in local moose populations and feel that all hunting of cow moose should be prohibited in order to better provide for future sustainable harvests of moose for regular general hunting, subsistence hunting and constitutionally-protected ceremonial hunting,” Frank wrote.
The Board of Game is meeting from Jan. 17-20 in Nome to discuss proposals for Western Arctic/Western Region Game Management Units, and from March 6-14 in Fairbanks to discuss proposals for Interior and Eastern Arctic Region Game Management Units.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.