FAIRBANKS — The winter Fortymile caribou hunt off the Steese Highway closed on schedule Monday, but state game managers might reopen it later this week once they determine how many caribou were killed during the weekend.
Tok area biologist Jeff Gross with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said “there are a lot rumors flying around about the season being extended,” but that hasn’t happened yet and game managers are hoping to know by the end of the week whether or not that will happen.
“We’re hoping by Thursday everybody will have reported,” he said, referring to the three-day reporting requirement for hunters who bagged a caribou. “Then we’re going to assess the harvest and determine whether or not we can reopen the hunt. Based on our numbers right now it’s definitely a possibility.”
As of Monday, the harvest was approximately 160 caribou and the harvest quota was 275. With a population of approximately 51,000 animals, the Fortymile is the largest caribou herd in the Interior.
The popular hunt off the Steese Highway was postponed for more than two months because too many caribou had congregated along the road. Game managers were worried about an overharvest with the animals so accessible.
The state opened a portion of the hunt farther off the road system in early January, and hunters took about 80 caribou before the hunt along the road was opened for two days on Feb. 10-11. Hunters were hampered by bad weather during that two-day opening, however, and took only about 30 caribou.
The road hunt was reopened on Feb. 18 for the final 10 days of the season, but storms the past two weekends resulted in a relatively low harvest of 30 to 40 caribou.
Hunters with questions about the state season should call the Fortymile hotline at 267-2310 or the Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks at 459-7206.