The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced this week that it will be issuing 2,425 additional drawing permits for the Nelchina Caribou Herd in Game Management Unit 13 this year after finding more caribou than anticipated during the summer population count.
In late June, the department counted more than 46,500 caribou on the calving grounds of the Nelchina herd. This count was much higher than expected, and well above the population objective of 35,000–40,000. The long term sustainability of the Nelchina herd depends heavily on keeping the herd within its population objective, according to the department.
Despite increased snow depths this past winter in portions of the herd’s range, it now appears survival was much higher than anticipated.
“We need to curb the herd’s growth by bringing in additional hunters this year to avoid long term damage to the herd’s range. While increased harvest opportunity is a plus, it will mean more hunters competing for caribou this year,” Becky Schwanke, area management biologist, said.
The preliminary harvest quota for this season is 5,500 caribou (1,500 cows and 4,000 bulls).
The department has already issued 575 bull-only drawing permits and 5,439 either sex subsistence permits. Along with federal subsistence hunters, existing permittees are expected to harvest only 3,400 caribou, short of the preliminary quota of 5,500 caribou available for this season.
Given this, the department will issue an additional 2,425 drawing permits to applicants from the original drawing process (Nov.-Dec. 2011 application period). A list of permit winners will be available on the web at www.hunt.alaska.gov. Permits will be mailed to successful applicants today. The drawing hunt season runs Aug. 20 to Sept. 20 and Oct. 21 to March 31. The bag limit is one bull.
In addition, the four hunt areas will be merged for 2012-13. All GMU 13 caribou drawing hunt permits DC480-483 will be good for all of GMU 13 for the upcoming hunting season. The original drawing permittees will be receiving new permits in the mail, as well, that will clearly state the new hunt boundaries.
“We hope to be able to allow increased opportunity to harvest caribou from this herd over the next couple years. We expect harvest quotas to return to normal once the herd is reduced to the objective range,” Schwanke said.
More information about the Nelchina Caribou Herd is available by calling the Nelchina Caribou Hotline at 907-267-2304.