ANCHORAGE - One day. That's how long the caribou hunting season along Steese highway will last this summer.
In an effort to avoid an over harvest of the Fortymile caribou herd, Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials announced Friday they are keeping the hunting season to 24 hours, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The season begins Sunday at midnight and ends at 11:59 p.m. Hunters were gathering along Steese highway ahead of the start time, state biologist Jeff Gross said.
"We expect a significant harvest on Sunday," Gross said in a press release.
Federally qualified subsistence hunters will be allowed to continue to hunt on federal land in the area.
Biologists moved the opening three weeks back, hoping the herd would disperse.
For the past three years, the herd has gathered near the highway, rendering it an easier target. Last year, hunters exceeded the hunting quota for the summer season by 36 percent, bagging 870 animals. That prompted the state to cancel the winter hunting season.
If the quota of 795 caribou is not met, the state has the option of reopening the hunting season.
"We don't know yet if this closure is final or temporary," Gross said.
State biologists said the 45,000-animal Fortymile herd is an Alaska caribou herd that's growing, up from 39,000 a year ago. Part of the reason may be that wolves have been shot from helicopters in an effort to boost the herd size to 50,000-100,000 animals.