ANCHORAGE - A new hunt begins today in Chugach State Park to reduce the number of moose roaming in and near Alaska's largest city.
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The hunt in the state park next to Anchorage is aimed at removing 30 moose.
Unlike the more common lottery-type drawings in which a certain number of hunters win permits, this hunt is by a registration that opened Sept. 14 to any licensed hunter in the state, according to the state Department of Fish and Game.
The registration closed last week after 347 people signed up, said Rick Sinnott, the Anchorage area's chief wildlife biologist.
The department hopes hunters will remove 30 bull moose, regardless of antler size, from the upper Ship Creek drainage, Sinnott said. That's the valley on the other side of the mountain ridge due east of Muldoon and Bicentennial Park.
"We've been trying to reduce the moose population in Ship Creek for decades because there are too many moose for the winter range," Sinnott said.
Moose in Ship Creek usually leave the mountains and winter over on the flats of Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base, where hunting opportunities are limited, he said.
The hunt will have to be carefully executed so that the limit is not exceeded, Sinnott said.
"We have to monitor the harvest closely and close the hunting season by an emergency order" when the target is reached, he said.
Nearly 12 times the number of hunters are registered as the number of bulls targeted by the hunt, but Sinnott and his assistant, biologist Jessy Coltrane, doubt that many hunters will actually try to take a bull moose from Ship Creek.
"I would anticipate that, as with most registration hunts, a lot of people sign up with very little intention of actually going," Coltrane said. "I pretty much guarantee that 150 don't even consider going in."
Coltrane blames the rugged terrain, the legal limits on movement through the park and conditions on the ground.
Motorized vehicles like four-wheelers are forbidden, so hunters must either go in on foot or, like most of those who hunt moose in Ship Creek, bring horses.
If they enter from the south, they have a minimum of five hours on horseback up Bird Valley and over Bird Pass before they can even start to hunt, Coltrane said.
If they go in from the north, they have a shorter distance but worse conditions.
"It's three miles to the open area where you can actually start hunting, and that's three miles down a hill and then through a bog," Coltrane said. "Two weeks ago I sunk in to my knees out there."