By Dave Bendinger, KDLG
The number of caribou in the Mulchatna herd is way down from a 1996 peak, and the Association of Village Council Presidents in Bethel has asked the Federal Subsistence Board to close hunting of Mulchatna herd to all but federally-qualified users from now until July 1, 2014.
Timothy Andrew is the Association’s Director of Natural Resources.
“We have a resource that needs to be conserved,” Andrew says. “And it’s a very important food source for the federally qualified hunters that reside in the Bristol Bay area and also in the Kuskokwim area as well.”
The population peaked at some 200,000 animals in 1996 and at last count was somewhere near 30,000.
If the special action that’s been requested is adopted, it would close caribou hunting to non-residents and non-local residents through June 30, 2014. Bristol Bay and the Kuskokwim can be popular caribou hunting grounds for those in Anchorage and other areas who can afford to fly here. Andrew says they want to take pressure off the Mulchatna herd and let the numbers rebound.
“The goal is to try and rebuild the population to at least the management objective which is currently 100,000 to 150,000 animals with a bull to cow ratio of 35 to 100,” Andrew says. “And without further protections, especially the non-federally qualified hunters taking a large percentage of the large bulls, without the large bull component, this population would continue to decrease in our opinion.”
The public can weigh in Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. at meeting to be held at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in Dillingham. A teleconference number is available for those who’d like to join remotely. Public comments will be accepted through Friday.