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Phone problems postpone Fortymile caribou hunt along Steese Highway

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Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 12:05 am

FAIRBANKS — Phone problems forced the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks to put a special Fortymile caribou hunt planned along the Steese Highway next week on hold.

The department announced last week that the first 100 people to call in beginning at 8 a.m. Monday would be put on a list for the new, limited registration permit hunt — RC999 — that allows as many as 30 caribou to be taken along the road in the otherwise closed zone of the winter Fortymile caribou hunt.

But Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said the department temporarily pulled the plug on the hunt after the agency’s phone system went down right at 8 a.m.

“Once we started answering the phone, things went down,” she said.

Phones were down for about an hour before some calls started to get through. Approximately 10 hunters did get through to get their names put on the list before the department experienced more phone problems.

At that point, the department decided to halt the phone-in hunt until it was confident the phones were working correctly, Harms said.

“The bottom line is the entire system was compromised, and we’re not confident the system was fair,” she said.

The department hasn’t decided when or if it will reschedule the hunt, Harms said.

“We’re not sure what our next step will be,” she said.

GCI spokesman David Morris said the system apparently crashed because of a staggering number of calls directed toward the two numbers Fish and Game was using for the call-in hunt. He said the network couldn’t take such a sudden, focused strain on its resources.

“It looks like the switch just got overwhelmed with the call volume,” Morris said.

Morris said GCI rebooted that part of the network and that it has been trouble-free since the crash. He said the problems appeared to disrupt only a few lines at Fish and Game and didn’t create issues in other areas.

The hunters who did get through to get their names put on the list were contacted and told of the situation, Harms said. If the department does decide to reschedule the hunt, those hunters will have to call back in to get their names on the list, she said.

The special hunt was scheduled to open for the first 15 hunters on the list on Dec. 10. It was created last week because thousands of caribou are congregated on and along the Steese Highway, about 100 miles north of Fairbanks, making them easy targets for hunters. Fearing that hunters would kill more than the allotted 150 caribou if the hunt was opened under normal conditions, game managers closed the area that parallels the Steese Highway to hunting but created the special call-in road hunt to give some hunters an opportunity to kill caribou along the road.

News-Miner staff writer Jeff Richardson contributed to this story. Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.

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