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Federal Subsistence Board sides with Kodiak Regional Advisory Council, increases harvest of deer and keeps antlerless rule

The Federal Subsistence Board during one of their regulatory meetings in Anchorage. (Federal Subsistence Board)
The Federal Subsistence Board during one of their regulatory meetings in Anchorage. (Federal Subsistence Board)

Federally qualified subsistence deer hunters in the Kodiak Archipelago will be able to take four black-tailed deer annually. Hunters are currently only allowed three deer between August and the end of January. That was part of the proposal passed by the Federal Subsistence Board at its meeting in Anchorage this week, April 2-5.

Thursday, April 4, the Board took up Wildlife Proposal 24-11, a proposal that would have eliminated the current antlerless deer hunting restriction in Unit 8, an area that covers the entire Kodiak Archipelago. That would have allowed hunters to also harvest does and fawns, which is currently prohibited from August to October. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge submitted the proposal for the Federal Subsistence Board to decide during its regulatory meeting this week.

The Kodiak/Aleutians Regional Advisory Council asked the Board to consider a modification to the original proposal that would retain the antlerless deer restriction. The council’s chair, Rebecca Skinner, said allowing antlerless deer to be taken between August and January during the current deer hunting season, would encourage the inadvertent harvesting of does and fawns, which is contrary to Alutiiq values.

“Given that newborn fawns are commonly delivered as early as mid-June, there’s apprehension that an earlier extension of the antlerless season may lead to the unintended harvesting of does with young fawns, potentially orphaning these vulnerable offspring,” Skinner stated.

Skinner and the rest of the Kodiak/Aleutians Regional Advisory Council supported increasing the harvest limit from three to four deer while maintaining an antlerless restriction during their winter meeting in March.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game sided with the Kodiak RAC and supported keeping the restriction as well. State liaison Ben Mulligan said harvesting female, antlerless deer could have a negative impact on the local population.

“Because we still hear from locals that are concerned regarding the reduction in deer abundance and harvest opportunity, an increase in female deer harvest should be carefully considered,” Mulligan said, “as this proposal could slow population growth and lead to prolonged population recovery times after experiencing any severe winter events.”

Severe winters are believed to be one of the main contributors to the Kodiak Island deer population’s decline at various times over the last few decades, going back to before the regulation was first imposed in 2002. In its proposal, the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge said there was anecdotal information from the late 1990s after severe winters occurred, that stated the deer population had fallen significantly at the time but no biological data to support the claims.

Kendra Holman, a wildlife biologist with the Office of Subsistence Management, said there was no biological data to support keeping the antlerless restriction and asked the Board to pass the proposal without it. According to Holman, the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge has done winter browse surveys of black-tailed deer on the island and said the overall population has not decreased recently, nor warrants conservation concerns.
Holman cited data indicating the annual harvest of deer has not reached the management plan objective of 8,000 to 8,500 animals since 2016. She also said residents of Kodiak Island have harvested 7% less deer in the last five years on average compared to the previous five years.

The regulation changes for harvest limits go into effect on July 1. This does not change the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s hunting regulations for nonresidents, who can only take one buck a year in the Kodiak Road System Management Area, between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, and one buck in Unit 8 remainder from Aug. 1 – Dec. 31.