The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is allowing a special winter moose hunt in the Mat-Su Valley in the hope of increased traffic safety. Beginning in 2011, the Board of Game decided that allowing limited permits to hunt “nuisance moose” would be preferable to spending money for the State Troopers, Wildlife Troopers, or Fish and Game to remove the animals. The hunt was then expanded to allow harvesting moose that winter near roadways and are at a higher risk of being hit by a vehicle. Specifically hunting moose that pose a traffic risk inevitably means the chance of a firearm being discharged near the road. Wildlife Biologist Todd Rinaldi says that the Department of Fish and Game has taken steps to help ensure public safety.
“Most of these areas that we’ve defined as hunt areas for this hunt are actually areas that are included in existing hunts. The weapons restrictions in these areas are similar to the weapons restrictions that the use in the Palmer-Wasilla Management Area or the Hillside hunts in Anchorage. Because they’re in close proximity to developments and human habitation and [are] along the roads, we use 10 and 12-gauge shotgun only, and bows as well.”
In addition, Todd Rinaldi says that hunters must complete an education course that deals with safety and hunting etiquette before they can apply for a permit. He says that it is too early to tell what impact the hunt will have on traffic safety, but he believes that it makes sense that reducing the population near the road should lead to fewer crashes.
“We have many years of moose collision data, so we know where the collisions occur–we know where the highest collisions occur. We can look at not only the…seasonal distribution of the collisions, but the spatial distribution of these collisions. Now, since we’ve initiated these hunt areas, we’ll be able to look deeper into these locations and see if we’ve detected a change.”
While one of the goals of the hunt is to reduce the population of so-called “nuisance moose” without stretching state resources, previous winter hunts led to many calls to Fish and Game as well as the Alaska State Troopers from people concerned that someone is hunting out of season. Todd Rinaldi says that there is a plan so that hopefully there won’t be as many of those calls this year.
“We’re going to require hunters who participate in this hunt this year to wear an orange vest that identifies them as a permitted hunter. The hope is that this will not only help alleviate some of the trespass issues, but also help alleviate some of the complaints and concerns residents had about hunters in their neighborhood at that time of year.”
Todd Rinaldi says no vest means no permit. He also says that only a handful of hunters will be allowed into the field at one time, due to the staggered timing of the winter permits. The hunting zones are spread out as far north as the Talkeetna River. He says he is hopeful that the targeted hunt will lead to enhanced safety and extra meat for Alaskan hunters.