The Alaska Board of Game has set a nonresident harvest cap for black bears on Kuiu Island, considered a world-class location to bag trophy bears.
Next year, game managers will shut down the nonresident season on the island south of Kake if out-of-state hunters kill more than 120 bruins. That's about 40 fewer bears than were taken in each of the past three years.
At its Juneau meeting, which ended Tuesday night, the board also passed measures authorizing larger moose harvests in Berners Bay and an open season for beaver trapping in Haines. The panel also approved a proposal to lengthen the goat season near the Chilkat Range.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists pushed the black bear cap, saying the nonresident harvest rate on Kuiu is increasing by 10 percent a year. Although the agency hasn't measured the effect on the bears, biologists thought it prudent to "put the brakes on it."
"(Kuiu Island) is very well known across the continent, and as a result, the harvest of black bears has gone way up," said Kim Titus, of the department. "The harvest rate just clearly is not sustainable over the long term."
The move will not affect resident hunters, who have taken an average of 25 Kuiu black bears a year the past decade, compared to an average 100 bruins for nonresidents. But it will affect Southeast game guides and other area businesses that rely on income from nonresident hunters.
Sitka game guide Dale Adams figures the new cap will cost him about $25,000 a year, but he supports the measure, saying the Kuiu bears need more protection.
"It's harder to get a big mature male than it was 10 years ago, and ... we don't want to see that trend continue," Adams said. "Maybe it'll never be like it was. It's still tremendous hunting, but to find a big mature male is getting more and more difficult."
Another proposal approved by the board authorizes the state to issue more hunting permits for moose near Berners Bay. Biologists want to keep moose numbers there between 70 to 90 animals, but a survey last year showed the herd had grown to more than 100. If the department next year finds the number is still that high, it may increase the number of hunting permits from 20 to 30.
The board also lengthened the goat-hunting season in an area near the Chilkat Range, west of Lynn Canal and east of Excursion Inlet. Biologist Neil Barten said hunters haven't taken a single goat the past four years because the season starts in October, when the weather gets ugly. Next year the season will begin Sept. 1.
"We'll allow hunters an extra month of hunting, and more importantly, a month during September when the weather is typically better and they can use their skiffs to go over to the Chilkat Range and hunt goats," he said.
Another measure approved by the board authorizes a trapping season for beaver in the Haines area. Barten said the season there has been closed since 1974 because of low numbers. The board approved a maximum harvest of five beavers per trapper.
The board also authorized the department to allow a permit hunt for cow moose in the Gustavus area. Barten said the agency is concerned the moose numbers are larger than the area can sustain.