Kodiak bear hunters have more prey to pursue and ranchers owning bison grazing in the northwest portion of the island will get more time to remove the animals before the state opens a hunt on them.
Those are among several changes affecting Kodiak the Alaska Board of Game approved at its meeting in Anchorage this week.
Kodiak bear hunters will have a greater opportunity to chase prey this fall since the board approved a higher number of drawing permits for hunt areas on eastern Kodiak and removed the regulation that penalized guides in southwestern Kodiak whose clients took female bears.
The number of bear permits also increased for Afognak, Shuyak and Raspberry islands and divided those northern islands into three hunt areas to better distribute the hunting pressure.
Another border change made by the board affects the popular bear registration hunt along the road system in northeastern Kodiak, Larry Van Daele, wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said today.
That boundary, which was a straight line from Craig Point to Saltery Creek, now follows ridge tops in the same area.
Van Daele said the overall size of the hunt has not changed, but it should be easier for hunters to find the boundary in the field.
Van Daele said another change eliminates confusion about the status of hunters who wound an animal and cannot retrieve it.
Starting in the fall 2007 hunting season, hunters who wound a brown bear will not be able to hunt for another bear during the remainder of the regulatory year.
“This regulation was proposed by the Kodiak Fish and Game Advisory Committee to maintain high ethical standards in Kodiak bear hunts and to minimize the wounding of bears,” Van Deale said.
“When a person attempts to kill a bear and instead wounds it, he has a moral obligation to follow up on the hunt,” Van Deale said.
“Now it is the law. Once you put a bullet in an animal, you have to find it or you are done hunting,” he said.
“This only affects a minority of people,” Van Daele said.
The only change to deer hunting regulations is in the way hunters use their harvest tickets.
“Starting this fall, all unused harvest tickets must be carried while hunting and they have to be used in sequential order,” Van Daele said.
“This proposal was intended to make it easier for hunters to understand that a deer taken in areas where the bag limit is one, such as the Kodiak road system, has to be the first deer taken that year,” he said.
Van Daele said one of the more complex decisions facing the board dealt with domestic bison that leave state grazing leases on northeast Kodiak.
The board adopted the Kodiak advisory committee’s recommendation to give area ranchers Bill Burton and Charlie Dorman more time to find solutions to prevent their buffalo from roaming onto private property and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge lands.
Current regulations stipulate that any unmarked bison leaving a lease is classified as “feral” and becomes state property.
The bison on Kodiak are not branded or ear-tagged, and unlike some other areas in the state, there is rarely a question as to who owns them.
“The board acknowledged this situation in their revision to the definition of feral animals. However, they also authorized the state to open a registration hunt on any bison that remain off the leases with little or no effort to retrieve them by their owners,” Van Daele said.
He said ranchers in Kodiak would initially be given up to two years to remove their bison from areas off the leases before the state considers opening a hunt.
Any hunting seasons authorized also will be designed to completely remove all bison off leases to minimize bear encounters and habitat degradation, Van Daele said.
“The Board of Game did a very good job finding a way to balance the rights and practical needs of the ranchers with their responsibility to protect public and private resources,” he said.
Mirror writer Bryan Martin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.