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The Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) has issued an emergency order changing bag limits, quota, and reporting requirements for state managed hunts for the Nelchina caribou herd in Unit 13, which begins south of Black Rapids on the Richardson Highway and includes the Glennallen area. The changes apply to hunts RC561, RC562, CC001, and DC485.

The reason for the change is said to help maintain a population objective of 35,000-40,000 animals. ADF&G said last summer the herd was around 50,000 caribou, “well above our population objective.” As a result, hunters were encouraged to take cows to help reduce the population. The harvest quota was also higher last year.

Regional Management Coordinator Todd Rinaldi said, “Basically, this means hunters have done their job.”

The July 2018 post-calving survey estimated the Nelchina herd at approximately 35,700.

“Biologists believe a harvest quota of 1,400 bull caribou from the state season with additional federal harvest can be taken sustainably while providing for subsistence opportunity and modest herd growth. Harvest quotas are established annually based on summer population surveys, composition surveys, measures of productivity, and historic harvest information,” said the release from ADF&G.

The state says calf-to-cow ratios in the heard remain healthy, but a shift in herd movement and extreme conditions resulted in a higher than normal overwinter mortality rate, reducing the number of animals in the herd.

Glennallen Wildlife Biologist Heidi Hatcher said, “We have evidence that some of our animals left the wintering grounds with the Fortymile herd, rather than coming back to the Nelchina Basin.”

The department has also instituted a three-day harvest reporting requirement for all state-managed Unit 13 caribou hunts. ADF&G says the change is necessary to allow wildlife managers to more closely track in-season harvest. Hunt reports can be filed online at https://secure.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=interperm.enter_report_hunterid, by phone at (907) 822-3461, or in person at the Glennallen or Palmer Fish and Game offices. 

Hunts may be closed by emergency order to ensure the harvest quota is not exceeded.

For hunt updates and additional information, call the Nelchina Hotline at 907-267-2304, or contact Todd Rinaldi at todd.rinaldi@alaska.gov or (907) 861-2105.

No changes have been issued at this point for the federal subsistence harvest, but Rinaldi says conversations are taking place on possible changes to the federal harvest.

Michael Paschall is the editor and publisher of Delta Wind and can be reached at editor@deltawindonline.com.