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Thread: Mulchatna Herd

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    Default Mulchatna Herd

    What is the lastest word on the Mulchatna Herd? The last word that I got was that it has been hit hard by predators and the numbers are way down. Any info would be appreciated thanks.

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    Research would indicate the #'s are still down.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

  3. #3

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    Derek,

    I flew through Merrill Pass over to Whitefish Lake, all over the headwaters of the Mulchatna River then South to Iliamna on Tuesday 10/07/2009. I then flew through Lake Clark Pass back home. I never saw one caribou, not one.

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    They do not know what has happened to the herd.
    Just plain disappeared.

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    Default what happened?

    I've got a good idea. Me and a friend killed 6 coyotes in 2 hours a few years ago near Dillingham. We saw 9. There are tons of bears, wolves, and coyotes in that country. If you think that coyotes aren't a threat to caribou, especially their calves, I think you're mistaken. That may not be the whole reason for the drop in the herd, but I guarantee that has something to do with it.

  6. #6

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    Yep,
    Wiped out thru predation. It is a new term the folks have for explaining a natural balance.
    "96% of all Internet Quotes are suspect and the remaining 4% are fiction."
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    Default This might be unpopular...

    ... but overhunting shouldn't be ruled out as a contributing factor. The bag limit when I lived out in Bristol Bay was 5. That didn't seem unsustainable in the 80 and into the 90s. I remember waking up to them being around my tent in the Igiagik area, and them wondering past our house in Dillingham one winter when they merged with the peninsula herd. That same hunt at Igiagik we found carcasses scattered around where someone had flown in and taken only the backstraps and ribs of the animals they had shot. The herd had been discovered by lots of hunters from outside the area, and between everybody and his brother hunting them; hoof disease, and greater populations of predatory animals, the herd is where it's at today.

    I still go past a big sign on the Sterling Highway which boldly promises "Caribou Unlimited". Bugs me. Buffalo were once considered unlimited as well.

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    I haven't read much credible evidence to support the notion that predation was the cause of the Mulchatna crash. My best understanding is that overpopulation led to overgrazing, coupled with heavy hunting pressure when the herd began to decline. I'm sure that predation is playing a role in keeping the numbers depressed, but I don't think it was a major factor in the precipitous decline.

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    Default Probably true

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    I haven't read much credible evidence to support the notion that predation was the cause of the Mulchatna crash. My best understanding is that overpopulation led to overgrazing, coupled with heavy hunting pressure when the herd began to decline. I'm sure that predation is playing a role in keeping the numbers depressed, but I don't think it was a major factor in the precipitous decline.
    Predation by wolves and bears didn't really seem to be that big of problem until recently. I do, however, know a guy out of Koliganek who used to make winter money hunting wolves from a plane in the 90's, so they were there in numbers even then.

    I'm not sure about overpopulation and overgrazing either, as there used to be big herds of reindeer in the area during the 20-40s which shared the tundra with them.

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    I hunted out on the pen in '04 for caribou, and from what we heard, it was the last year that herd was near stable, and it was WAY down from '03. We shot 2 little bulls and a cow, pretty disappointed. Planned on going again in '05 but our pilot called us long before our hunt and said don't bother, no caribou here.

    Saw a bear, a wolf and a few foxes on our hunt out there. If we'd had the gun outside the tent we would've drilled that wolf.

    My guess is the combination of hunting pressure and predation. Maybe a disease? Any thoughts on that?
    "Ya can't stop a bad guy with a middle finger and a bag of quarters!!!!"- Ted Nugent.

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    Both the state and feds flew a lot of country out here and did not see many dead bou. Same with a bunch of hunters.
    They had some with collars that just plain disappeared.
    They tracked one that went all the way the back of Denali.

    The bou just disappeared out here.
    Still lots of feed around.

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    Maybe they were abducted by aliens?

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    I've hunted out the for the past nine years. In 2006 in one area I saw lots of caribou, one bear and one wolf. We took one caribou apiece. This year caribou numbers were down and we saw one wolf and eight bears. Predation? Maybe. Oh, by the time we left without caribou, the wolf count was 0 and the bear count was 7.

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    Default Where did the mulchatna caribou go?

    20 years ago caribou were pretty scarce in Bethel area but since 2000 they have been rather plentiful around the local hills during the winter mind you I haven't been there in three winters but last time we were getting them 20 minutes out on snowmobile and there was thousands of them.Tthey were a welcome presence from the locals that hadn't had caribou in years. and moose were few and far between in the lower. kusko area

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    This appears to be the underlying cause for herds around the Arctic:

    Mighty caribou herds dwindle, warming blamed
    By CHARLES J. HANLEY (AP) – 5 days ago
    ON THE PORCUPINE RIVER TUNDRA, Yukon Territory — Here on the endlessly rolling and tussocky terrain of northwest Canada, where man has hunted caribou since the Stone Age, the vast antlered herds are fast growing thin. And it's not just here.
    Across the tundra 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the east, Canada's Beverly herd, numbering more than 200,000 a decade ago, can barely be found today.
    Halfway around the world in Siberia, the biggest aggregation of these migratory animals, of the dun-colored herds whose sweep across the Arctic's white canvas is one of nature's matchless wonders, has shrunk by hundreds of thousands in a few short years.
    From wildlife spectacle to wildlife mystery, the decline of the caribou — called reindeer in the Eurasian Arctic — has biologists searching for clues, and finding them.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/...4KOXQD9B4MUK81


    A little historical perspective: The last caribou in Maine was shot in Caribou, Maine in 1908. There was a misguided and expensive attempt to reintroduce caribou in the Mt. Katadin area in the late 80's. The folks involved simply didn't understand that the environment had changed so much that it had no chance of success. However, the bears did enjoy the tasty meals delivered to them courtesy of the wildlife folks. When I bought a lodge in Labrador (about 800 miles due north of Maine) in 1988 the buildings still had caribou antlers on them that had been shot in the '70's when the place was both a fishing and caribou operation. By the late 70's and early 80's this great woodland caribou herd had disappeared. No one knew why, no one witnessed anything since no one is in that area except the 8-12 people who are at the lodge for the season, but people liked to blame it on over hunting by the native people. This was not likely since it was an extremely remote area, only accessible by float plane, and the natives simply didn't have the money to own planes nor hire them, not accessable by boat, and anyway flying out 30k caribou would not have gone unnoticed. More than likely climate change had altered the environment in some way that was not detected. Maybe increased incidence of disease, maybe warmer temps caused the lichens to be covered by ice and making them unavailable at critical times. The caribou trails were everywhere still, providing nice routes to pretty much anywhere you wanted to go, stitching their way across the landscape. Trails that were thousands of years old but now only echoed with emptiness. The lake I was on was called Atikonak, which means "caribou crossing place" in Innu. In the years I was there we saw maybe 5 caribou.

    What has worked is the introduction of the wild turkey. Introduced back in the early 90's with an initial release of about 25 birds, now there are thousands and thousands of them and an open season, no permit required. Again, historically there were darn few turkeys in Maine at anytime previous. So in the past 100 years there is the disapearence of the caribou and the amazing unprecedented spread of turkeys. They are all the way to the Canadian border along the coast, and almost up to Millinocket (maybe there by now for all I know) where they attempted to reintroduce the caribou. Climate change is change you can believe in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sledhands View Post
    20 years ago caribou were pretty scarce in Bethel area but since 2000 they have been rather plentiful around the local hills during the winter mind you I haven't been there in three winters but last time we were getting them 20 minutes out on snowmobile and there was thousands of them.Tthey were a welcome presence from the locals that hadn't had caribou in years. and moose were few and far between in the lower. kusko area
    Bou used to cross the river 20 yrs ago at Kalskag and Aniak but not anymore.
    Cousins used to way up in the mtns to get them.
    Few weeks ago they were within 2 miles of a village near me.
    Still a mix of carideer running around separate of the mulchatna.

    Talked with dad more on this and he remembers something about them eating their calving ground out plus getting some kind of disease.

    Over the past 2 yrs there has been an averge of 80 wolves a yr gotten out of the area.
    Still a bunch running around.

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    When there were a lot of caribou, there were a lot of non-resident unguided hunters killing them two at a time. The mind set was that if the Alaska Fish and Game would allow them to take two, it was ok to shoot two. I watched the number of great bulls fall rapidly AND THEN the number of cows start to fall. Camps were like a gauntlet out there, with no chance for the animals. Once the big bulls were thinned out, the hunters started focusing on the middle age bulls because they did not want to go home empty handed. When the middle age bulls were gone, the focused on the small bulls. Once they were gone, hunters started taking the cows, again because they didn't want to go home empty handed. When their buddy shot a second cow, they felt the pier pressure to do the same so they would not be thought of as a poor hunter when they got back home and their buddy was bragging about taking two animals.
    I have heard these unguided nonresident hunters talk about this over and over. Unfortunately, while the predators have not helped the situation, hunters who shot the maximum bag limit allowed are to blame for the Mulchatna caribou herd decline. The politically correct thing to say is "it is due to smoke, feed, predators, or the natural cyclic nature of animals" and avoid anyone taking responsibility. If these unguided hunters would have been regulated by a one caribou bag limit or even had a tag quota like in other areas of the state and the other 49 states, the herd would be healthy.

    I think Kotzebue (and some of the other communities) is in for the same experience if the Alaska Fish and Game doesn't get into the game. Self regulation on the part of hunters, guides, transporters, etc doesn't work because everyone thinks that if the Regs allow it, it must be ok. The same phenomenon occurs everywhere....When they raised the speed limit on our highway systems, it didn't take long for everyone to start driving the MAXIMUM speed limit. Nobody likes too much regulation but if the State of Alaska would have put a stricter limit on caribou harvest ten years ago(when the numbers where great), the Mulchatna herd would still be running strong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kent dorfman View Post
    When there were a lot of caribou, there were a lot of non-resident unguided hunters killing them two at a time. .
    I don't buy that. A few thousand hunters taking an extra animal aren't going to devastate a herd orders of magnitude larger than that.

    Predation, overgrazing and disease after explosive growth, climate change I can all accept though it's also clear some of them just up and moved elsewhere. We'll see how far things come back as all those factors tend to correct themselves. Eventually.

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    Member sledhands's Avatar
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    I would have to agree on the hunters putting a good nick in the herd.3 alaska ailines 3 pennair flights each day for two months a year packing 10-30 hunters a piece plus air services in anchorage and kenai penninsula making two trips a day with 2-10 hunters a flight. That has to be 10.000 plus animals a season The mulchatna herd was how large at its peak.

  20. #20
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    Default spot on

    Quote Originally Posted by kent dorfman View Post
    When there were a lot of caribou, there were a lot of non-resident unguided hunters killing them two at a time. The mind set was that if the Alaska Fish and Game would allow them to take two, it was ok to shoot two. I watched the number of great bulls fall rapidly AND THEN the number of cows start to fall. Camps were like a gauntlet out there, with no chance for the animals. Once the big bulls were thinned out, the hunters started focusing on the middle age bulls because they did not want to go home empty handed. When the middle age bulls were gone, the focused on the small bulls. Once they were gone, hunters started taking the cows, again because they didn't want to go home empty handed. When their buddy shot a second cow, they felt the pier pressure to do the same so they would not be thought of as a poor hunter when they got back home and their buddy was bragging about taking two animals.
    I have heard these unguided nonresident hunters talk about this over and over. Unfortunately, while the predators have not helped the situation, hunters who shot the maximum bag limit allowed are to blame for the Mulchatna caribou herd decline. The politically correct thing to say is "it is due to smoke, feed, predators, or the natural cyclic nature of animals" and avoid anyone taking responsibility. If these unguided hunters would have been regulated by a one caribou bag limit or even had a tag quota like in other areas of the state and the other 49 states, the herd would be healthy.

    I think Kotzebue (and some of the other communities) is in for the same experience if the Alaska Fish and Game doesn't get into the game. Self regulation on the part of hunters, guides, transporters, etc doesn't work because everyone thinks that if the Regs allow it, it must be ok. The same phenomenon occurs everywhere....When they raised the speed limit on our highway systems, it didn't take long for everyone to start driving the MAXIMUM speed limit. Nobody likes too much regulation but if the State of Alaska would have put a stricter limit on caribou harvest ten years ago(when the numbers where great), the Mulchatna herd would still be running strong.
    ESPECIALLY:
    ""I think Kotzebue (and some of the other communities) is in for the same experience if the Alaska Fish and Game doesn't get into the game.""

    This huge mass of nonres unguided will move to the next best place when Kotz starts sucking and Fish and Game will do nothing to curb the process because that's a big part of their golden goose. Who protects the game itself? I honestly would shoot any caribou too if I spent thousands to get up from the 48. The number of total kill probably needs limited by state regulating officials if we expect to have any game in 10 years. Look at the sheep situation. Moose around the road system. I could go on.

    Yeah the predator situation sucks out at the mulchatna but don't be foolish about the damage 2 caribou per each non res hunter for a decade did. I have seen large plane (not bush plane...small cargo plane) fulls of meat and antler land twice a week and that was ONE outfit. Connexes FULL of antlers waiting for hunters to fly out of bush to pickup to take home, (one outfit....remember there were LOTS of outfits). The predators are probably the big hitter now a days but human is no doubt the reason the herd is down to nothing to begin with.

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