Board of Game meeting

The Alaska Board of Game meets Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, at Pike's Waterfront Lodge. 

FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s Board of Game legalized the use of hunting dogs in the pursuit of coyotes Monday afternoon, but restricted the technique to the Delta Junction area.

Board members expressed some puzzlement about how exactly dogs will be useful for coyote hunting, before narrowly approving the new rule.

Board members generally liked the proposal because it might remove more coyotes — which prey on other animals targeted by hunters. The proposal was supported by four regional Fish and Game advisory committees and opposed by none. 

However, the Alaska Trappers Association expressed concern hunting with dogs may interfere with trapping.

The newly legalized hunting technique isn’t expected to be widely used, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s analysis of the proposed rule. Dogs are widely used for hunting upland birds and waterfowl. They’re allowed for black bear hunting under restricted conditions. 

The new rule will take effect July 1.

Alaska’s seven-member Board of Game sets hunting and trapping rules for the state. The board is meeting this week at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge in Fairbanks to discuss regulations for northern Alaska, including the Interior.

Coyotes are canine predators about a third the size of wolves. Coyotes entered Alaska through the southeast part of the state early in the 20th century and have gradually moved north to Southcentral and later Interior Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

In general, Alaska’s administrative code prohibits using dogs to hunt fur-bearing animals such as  coyotes, wolves, lynx and wolverine.

The Delta Junction Fish and Game Advisory Committee asked the Alaska Board of Game to make an exception for hunting coyotes, because coyote numbers are strong despite liberal hunting seasons and bag limits on the animals.

“If nothing is done, coyote hunting will continue to be underutilized,” according to the proposal.

The proposal identifies benefits and costs of using dogs for coyote hunting.

“Those who will benefit are hunters who wish to hunt coyotes with dogs and hunters of small game that are preyed upon by coyotes. Those who will likely suffer are those opposed to hunting coyotes with dogs and those wishing to have more coyotes.”

No one from the Delta Junction advisory committee was present at the Board of Game meeting to answer questions about how the dogs would be used.

When asked by the board how dogs can be used to hunt coyotes, law enforcement liaison Lt. Paul Fussey said he knew three techniques: scent hounds that track their prey by smell; sight hounds that see and chase their prey; and the use of female dogs in heat to attract coyotes.

As written, the proposal would have affected all of Game Management Unit 20, a wide section of the Interior and Alaska Range. The board was wavering on the proposal when Vice Chairman Nate Turner, of the Kantishna River area, suggested a compromise: narrowing the proposal to affect only Subunit 20D, the area around Delta Junction.

The amended proposal passed 5-to-2 with Tok board member Teresa Sager Albaugh and new board member Larry Van Daele, of Kodiak, voting against it.

“It’s narrowed down. It’s a very small area. It’ll be a good experiment; we can learn something from it,” said Chairman Ted Spraker, explaining his vote in favor of the proposal after it passed.

The Alaska Board of Game began its meeting last week and is scheduled to continue through Saturday. Also on Monday, the board rejected or took no action on a series of proposals to restrict hunting opportunities for out-of-state hunters. Additionally, the board rejected a proposal that would have required duck and upland bird hunters to salvage the leg and thigh meat of the birds they shoot instead of just the breast meat.

The board added crossbows to the list of weapons hunters can use in certain specialized “targeted hunts” in the state such as hunts to remove problem moose from highways. These hunts were previously restricted to bow and arrow, shotgun and muzzleloader rifles. 

Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.