INTENSIVE MANAGEMENT OF MOOSE AT HIGH DENSITY: IMPEDIMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In 1994, the Alaska Legislature passed legislation directing the Board of Game to identify big game prey populations where “intensive management” (IM) would be used to attain and sustain high levels of harvest. The IM law specifically provides for active management of predators and habitat, but fails to mention that antlerless hunts are key to achieving high levels of harvest. We discuss IM for moose in Game Management Unit (GMU) 20A through 2005, because GMU 20A has a unique history of predator management and currently supports the highest moose density for any equivalent-sized area in Alaska. Moose numbers in GMU 20A exceeded the IM population objectives beginning in 1999, but the IM harvest objectives were not met during 2002-2005. We identified the following impediments to achieving IM harvest objectives in GMU 20A: (1) negative public attitude toward antlerless moose hunts; (2) local citizen advisory committees have veto power over antlerless hunts; (3) bull:cow ratios are difficult to maintain when harvests are restricted largely to bulls; (4) access issues, including spatial and temporal distribution of the harvest; (5) social issues including local-non-local hunter conflicts, hunter-landownder conflicts, and illegal harvest; and (6) insufficient funding for research programs, management activities, and public education. Despite these impediments, liberal antlerless harvests were sufficient in 2004 and 2005 to halt moose population growth and attain high levels of harvest; annual harvests reached the highest levels recorded for GMU 20A. To facilitate the management of high-density moose for high levels of harvest, we recommend: (1) elimination of advisory committee veto power over antlerless hunts; (2) greater flexibility by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to implement and manage antlerless hunts; (3) close monitoring of hunting-related social issues; (4) ADF&G authorization to initiate prescribed burns; and (5) increased funding for management activities, research programs, and public education.
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