BETHEL - A recent hunt on the lower Kuskokwim River claimed more moose than planned because some hunters filed late harvest reports, wildlife officials said.
The Tundra Drums reports that nearly 20 hunters are facing fines for turning their reports in late for the weeklong, antler-only hunt.
The state closed the season last Tuesday, three days early, by emergency order. As of Friday, hunters in the area had reported 93 moose killed - 18 more that the quota of 75.
"If people report late we can't do our job," said Patrick Jones, Fish and Game's assistant area management biologist. "It becomes extremely difficult to manage a hunt as it's ongoing if people aren't reporting on time."
Last year, hunters took 35 more moose than planned. Managers subsequently decided that kills needed to be reported within one day, instead of two, so that they could stop the hunting quickly.
Still, many successful hunters didn't report for two or even three days, Sanchez said. Eighteen face citations from state wildlife officers.
Shaun Sanchez, deputy manager of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, said managers spread out in the field by plane and by boat to warn hunters of the change.
Some hunters said they just forgot, and others said logistical problems kept them from reporting on time, Jones said.
The back-to-back hunting seasons followed a five-year moratorium on moose-hunting pushed by subsistence hunters. The suspension boosted the population to unprecedented numbers, roughly estimated at about 1,000 today.
Jones said the number of moose killed this year is still in the "safe zone."
"We're close enough to our goal and the population is growing fast enough that we're not worried about it," he said.
But Sanchez said that if the overharvests continue at this rate, the moose population won't grow and might even decline.
In all, 1,500 hunters reported taking 81 moose on state land, which has significantly more moose habitat. Twelve moose were taken on federal land.