FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s annual moose count is under way after a two-day delay caused by inclement weather.
The aerial survey, conducted by state officials in the Interior each year in October and November, began Friday. The surveys help biologists develop population trends, figure out harvest rates and quotas and determine whether the state is meeting population management objectives, Fish and Game biologist Don Young told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Using GPS-equipped airplanes, pilots fly grid patterns over specific areas while biologists count any moose they see in the area. Those numbers are extrapolated to come up with a unit-wide population estimate.
This year, the department is focusing its efforts on two game management units: 20C southwest of Fairbanks, and 20A south of the town across the Tanana River.
The department does moose surveys every year in unit 20A, one of the most heavily hunted areas in the state where about 5,000 hunters kill some 1,000 moose a year. But the other unit, where only about 130 moose are harvested annually, will get the most comprehensive survey yet, Young said.
“We did a composition survey three or four years ago but this will be the first population estimate that I’m aware of,” he said. The survey is needed so the Board of Game can consider various management proposals.
Biologists are hoping to have the counts finished in both unit 20C and unit 20A by the first week in December, which is when bull moose typically start shedding their antlers. It’s also too dark to do much at that point, Young said.
Biologists in Tok conducted moose surveys last week and surveys were being conducted in the Delta and Galena areas this week, Young said.