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Board of Game Extends Unimak Wolf Hunting & Trapping

In an effort to at least slow down a dramatic decline in the Unimak Caribou Herd, the Board of Game held an emergency meeting today and voted 4-1 to extend the hunting and trapping seasons for wolves on the western portion of Unimak Island.

Wolf hunting and trapping seasons closed May 25 and Mar. 31, respectively, but the emergency regulation will now close the seasons on June 30.

“We know hunting and trapping of wolves is not likely to reduce predation adequately to stop the herd’s decline, but we hope to slow it, and other than direct action to control wolf predation on the caribou calving grounds, this is the best we can do,” said Board Chairman Cliff Judkins. “Until wolves preying on newborn calves are removed, that herd is in danger.”

The Unimak Caribou herd has declined from more than 1,200 animals in 2002 with 54 bulls per 100 cows, to approximately 400 this year, with 5 bulls per 100 cows, the lowest bull:cow ratio on record of any caribou herd in Alaska. At that level, most cows in the herd are unable to successfully breed and don’t produce calves.   Local rural residents have contacted the Department to request immediate action to reduce predation on Unimak caribou and increase the herd for subsistence opportunities.

Residents of Unimak Island and others in the region have traditionally hunted the Unimak Herd, Southern Alaska Peninsula Herd (SAP), and to some extent Northern Alaska Peninsula Herd (NAP). No hunting is currently allowed on any of the three herds due to population declines in recent years.

The SAP has calved on state land in recent years, and predator control efforts by Department biologists since 2008 have reversed that herd’s decline. Due to the success of the program, the Board of Game will consider a proposal to allow limited subsistence hunting of the SAP herd in 2011.

According to the Department, a concerted effort by hunters and trappers to take wolves could result in more wolves being killed than would be selectively taken by Department staff, and be less effective at stopping the herd’s decline.

The Board of Game will next meet Nov. 5 – 11, 2010 to consider proposals to change Hunting and Trapping regulations in Southeast Alaska.

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