Subsistence study to come to Lower Kuskokwim

by Mark Arehart on December 29, 2011

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is interested in researching Bethel residents’ big game subsistence practices.

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“We’re proposing a project called the Lower Kuskokwim Big Game Project, Dave Runfola, Subsistence Research Specialist for the Department of Fish and Game, said.

“It’s going to be a survey conducted by the department of fish and game, division of subsistence, and what we’ll do is survey a sample of bethel households in order to ask about big game harvests by hunters in the community,” Runfola said.

He says surveys like the one the department is proposing here in Bethel are key to understanding what’s happening in big game populations of caribou, moose and other animals. “We’re interested in cooperating with local subsistence users and community organizations in Bethel so that we can have the most accurate big game harvest estimates”

The survey is different than the harvest tickets that hunters turn in at the end of the season.

Phillip Perry, the State Area Management biologist, said harvest tickets are important and still need to be turn in, but they aren’t always an accurate representation of big game harevests

“Because it’s voluntary, compliance with it is highly variable and normally it’s not very good,” Perry said.

The department wants to improve accuracy and have better knowledge of how many big game animals are being taken in the lower Kuskokwim and surrounding regions.

“A subsistence harvest survey like this is a good way to improve that accuracy. And Bethel, since it’s the largest community of the region, in the center of an area where many residents are typically very active subsistence harvesters, it’s very important for the department to have accurate harvest estimates that will insure effective management, as well as support of continued customary and traditional use of wildlife resources by area residents,” Runfola said.

He said the survey results would be confidential and used to make sure big game species like the Mulchatna herd of Caribou thrive and are available for subsistence harvesting in the future.

“We’ll ask people how many animals of different species were harvested by household members, as well as where the animals were harvested. And we’re going to ask about all big game harvests of each household, not just those that took place near by,” Runfola said.

Fish and game went before the Bethel City Council December 13th to propose the study. Runfola said that although they do not need council’s permission to conduct the in home survey, it was best for the community to be aware the department’s intentions.

“So that they know that somebody might come to their door and ask them about their subsistence harvest activities,” Runfola said.

Council will give its recommendation on the survey at the next meeting.

Runfola said the department also plans to involve some community members in administering the survey. “We intend to hire approximately four to six local technitians who will be provided an orientation. And they will be assited with fish and game, division of subsistence, staff during the actual survey.”

The survey is scheduled to start in March.

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