By Heidi Zemach for SCN –
Hunting and trapping takes place in the Seward area and beyond, all along the entire Kenai Peninsula, although old-timers often grumble that the tradition isn’t nearly what it used to be, either in terms of the numbers of accessible wildlife, or the number of hunters participating. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Biologist Jeff Selinger, who works out of Soldotna and Jason Herreman, working of Homer attended the Seward Fish and Game Advisory Committee Meeting November 14th to give some of the most current harvest numbers. The committee also discussed some statewide fishing and hunting proposals, and some items of local interest.Advisory committee members included Chairman Jim McCracken, Jeanette Hanneman, Jim Herbert, Bob White, John Flood, W.C. Casey, Diane Dubuc, Ezra Campbell, Trent Foldager, Arne Hatch, Robin Collman. Mark Clemens was excused and Matt Hall and Jim Hubbard were absent.
W.C. Casey had represented the committee on the issue of putting net-pens in the Seward Lagoon. He had attended a meeting with Seward Chamber of Commerce personnel and Dan Bosch, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Department’s Sportfish Division concerning placing salmon smolt that the chamber has purchased from state hatcheries into a net pen in the town lagoon for two weeks before allowing them to hit the open sea. The chamber had initiated this dialog, believing that allowing these young smolt to grow larger in the warm water would thus increase their overall chance of survival when out at sea. Fish and Game supports the concept, which is being done elsewhere that smolt are released, and has agreed to provide the food for the smolt. The first step would be for graduate students lined up by ADF&G to help the local group better understand the hydrology of the lagoon basin, and what would be needed for the pens.
Fish and Game advisory committee members suggested that the southwest area of the lagoon is the deepest, and would be the best site for the pens. Others wondered whether there would be adequate flow of oxygen to supply the densely packed smolt. Robin Collman felt that the project would have a low impact on the lagoon.
In matters related to hunting, Selinger and Herreman gave an overview of the game harvest on the Kenai Peninsula with figures compiled to date. They broke the figures down for the entire Kenai Peninsula, (Units 15 and 7), and for Unit 7, the area closest to town which starts on the U.S. Forest Service boundary on the northern part of the peninsula west of Hope, and the Resurrection Trail, and runs south to Seward, including the communities of Seward, Cooper Landing, Moose Pass and Hope.
Game Unit 15 is divided into three subunits, A, B and C, and are managed separately. Collectively, they encompass the vast area on the southern side of the peninsula including hunting and trapping areas around Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski, Sterling, Homer, Seldovia, Anchor Point, Port Graham and other communities.
Figures showed hunters killed 422 black bears peninsula-wide this season. Of that number, 141 black bears were harvested in Unit 7. On the Kenai Peninsula, brown bear hunters took 45 brown bears for hunting purposes, and reported taking 24 non-hunting bears, either for self-defense or by accident. In Unit 7, they took 12 brown bears, all for hunting purposes.
On the entire peninsula, hunters harvested 61 goats and seven sheep. In Unit 7 the number was 24 goats and four sheep.
For the 2013 moose season’s “General Season” hunts, hunters harvested 151 moose peninsula-wide, (97 from sub-unit 15C). Game Unite 15-B allows permit hunting only for moose, so those numbers were not included in the figure. In Unit 7, hunters only were successful in harvesting only two moose in the moose hunting season that closed September 20th.
More people used to take more moose in Unit 7 in the past, noted longtime area hunter Jim McCracken. He wondered what could be done to enhance the habitat to bolster the moose population. Bob White, another avid hunter, attributed cow and calf population losses to the number of brown bears preying on them, and said that that would not change until the brown bear population was reduced.
His own, and the state’s philosophy was to offer people the opportunity to hunt moose, even if one’s chances of success are very low, said Selinger. The main habitat in unit 7 used to be spruce forest and riparian areas, with moose concentrated in the riparian areas, he said. But in the early 1900s miners burned substantial portions of the area, which created better moose grazing habitat, and they hunted predators harder, which may have led to larger moose populations. Someone commented that more moose were killed by vehicular accidents than were taken by hunters. Because of the lower numbers, many local hunters choose to travel to parts of the state where they are more plentiful or easier to access.
The bear hunting seasons are ongoing, but they’ve mostly gone into hibernation by now, said Fish and Game biologist Herreman.
The fur-bearer’s trapping season for 2012-2013 showed a peninsula-wide harvest of 400 lynx, 130 marten, 55-60 wolves, 70 beavers, 32 otters, 21 wolverines. By comparison, in Unit 7, area trappers took 90 marten, 23 lynx, 15 beavers, 7 wolverine, 6 wolves and five otters.