Harsh winters from 2006 to 2009 on Chichagof Island has taken a toll on the local deer population. The Hoonah Indian Association, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Forest Service are asking hunters to complete surveys this season to help them better understand the population’s health.
Justin Koller is a subsistence biologist at the Sitka Ranger District. Koller said that that deer population on Chichagof hasn’t needed intensive management until now.
“Those harsh winters coupled with the harvest pressure caused us to pay more attention to that area,” Koller said. “In general, we’d like to know what the hunters are seeing in the field, how many deer they saw, a rough age of the deer, how many does. If they’re seeing more fawns, that might be indicative of a recovery.”
Koller said hunters are also encourage to bring the head or the jaw of the deer they’ve hunted so biologists can determine it’s actual age.
“Based on looking at that lower jawbone we can tell how old that deer is,” Koller said. “If we get enough deer, we can get a good picture of the age structure of the population.”
Data from the first surveys taken in 2012 led to an early closure of the state and federal doe season, Koller said.
“We were able to use that data to see what harvest was occurring and what the hunters were seeing,” Koller said. “What we saw wasn’t encouraging and not what we would like to see to allow a full season.”
Koller said that the partnership between the three organizations involved in the survey is productive.
“I think it’s a unique situation,” Koller said. “We’re finding local solutions to these problems with the Forest Service, Fish and Game and the Hoonak Indian Association. I think we have a pretty good collaboration that’s working.”
The survey station will operate on Kennel Creek road east of Hoonah airport until the end of November.
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