The bull moose hunting season in the Salcha River drainage area and "remainder" portions of Game Management Unit 20B will be five days shorter for the second year in a row.
Alaska residents will be allowed to hunt bull moose during Sept.1-15 in these areas, and nonresidents will be able to hunt Sept. 5-15.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order to reduce the hunting season length in the Salcha River drainage downstream from Goose Creek and upstream from and including Butte Creek, southeast of the Moose Creek dike within a half mile of each side of the Richardson Highway, except the Birch, Harding, and Lost Lake closed areas.
Fish and Game also reduced the season in the portion referred to as “20B remainder” in the Alaska Hunting Regulations. This includes the majority of the road-accessible area in Unit 20B. These changes were published in the 2019-2020 Alaska Hunting Regulations and are same season length reductions that were put in place in 2018.
The reduction was prompted by the results of a moose survey conducted in November 2017 that showed that the bull-to-cow ratio had declined to 17 bulls per 100 cows. According to a department news release, this is “well below” the department’s management objective of 30 bulls per 100 cows.
“This bull-to-cow ratio has been declining for the last several years and is likely due to a harvest rate that is too high for this population,” said Tony Hollis, Fairbanks area management biologist, in the news release. “Reducing the season length will help the ratio recover."
While Unit 20B historically had a 15-day moose season, it has been longer in recent years. In 2009, the moose population was estimated at 18,000 to 20,000 moose, which is above the management objective of 12,000 to 15,000. According to the department, this is “too many moose for the available habitat.”
To lower the population to levels within habitat capabilities, the department expanded moose-hunting opportunity. This included increasing the bull moose season by five days starting during the 2011 hunting season — a regulation that remained in place until 2017.
The fall 2017 moose population estimate of approximately 12,871 moose indicated that the moose population was reduced to an appropriate level for the amount of available habitat; however, the bull-to-cow ratio is now below the objective of 30 bulls per 100 cows.
This ratio helps to ensure that adequate numbers of bulls are available to breed cows in the fall and also provides good opportunities for moose hunters in the area. As such, a 15-day season in the areas may be the new norm.
“It is likely that we will continue with the 15-day hunting season in the future to maintain the bull:cow ratio,” said Hollis said in the news release.
Moose hunting season dates will not change in other portions of Unit 20B this year, including the Minto Flats Management Area, the Fairbanks Management Area, and the Middle Fork of the Chena River and Salcha River upstream of Goose Creek. Those areas are more difficult to access, and fewer moose are harvested annually.
“The reduction in season length targets that portion of Unit 20B that has the best access, the most hunting pressure, and the highest moose harvest,” Hollis said.
Hollis urged all hunters who hunt moose in Unit 20B to read the 2019-2020 Alaska Hunting Regulations before heading into the field and to make sure they know the season dates for the area in which they plan to hunt.