The Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee meets on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, at Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee meets on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, at Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Advisory Committee supports expansion of wolverine hunting, rejects trapping restrictions

The Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee met Monday

At a public meeting of the Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee on Monday at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, 13 representatives discussed and voted to determine the committee’s official recommendation on 15 proposals to the Board of Game, ahead of the board’s March 3 meeting.

Proposals to the boards are considered for each region of Alaska on a three-year cycle. The Southcentral region will have proposals considered this year, then not again until 2026. Advisory committees make their official recommendations known to the board ahead of those sessions.

The 15 proposals discussed Monday, of 67 to the board, largely focused on trapping regulations, specifically setbacks and other restrictions. In unanimous or nearly unanimous votes, the advisory committee recommended no action on 14 of the 15 proposals.

The only proposal that was supported by the committee was Proposal 159, which the group voted 12 in favor with one abstention.

That proposal, by Caleb Martin, would lengthen the wolverine hunting season in Units 7 and 15, which cover the Eastern and Western Kenai Peninsula respectively. Current regulation features an opening for wolverine hunting on Sept. 1. The proposal, which would start the season on Aug. 10, compared wolverines to the bears and wolves that are harvestable during that time, and cited a need to manage predators of Dall sheep.

Nick Fowler, an area biologist from the Department of Fish and Game, was present to provide data context where possible. He said the department has no evidence that wolverines are significant in the decrease of the Dall sheep population, but said that their harvest has been largely steady for the last five years.

Citing the size of their habitat and the difficulty of accessing it, the group voted to recommend the proposal.

The 14 proposals connected to trapping that the group voted against were Proposals 145-158 and 160. Of these, 11 detailed various closures or setbacks of areas from trapping, including several in Cooper Landing, along the Sterling Highway, on Snowmad trails, the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club Trails and in three trails within Kachemak Bay State Park.

Many of those proposals cited conflict between trappers and other user groups — specifically dogs running off of the trails and getting caught.

The group said the proposals lacked any detailed evidence of a problem existing, and that they failed to address that problem with fairness to both recreational user groups. The Department of Fish and Game does not track occurrences of domestic animals being trapped.

“A hundred yards isn’t enough,” Committee Chair Mike Crawford said. “They’re going to come back when it’s not. As soon as they trap a dog that’s 110 yards off the trail. It’s going to be a quarter mile, then it’s going to be a mile.”

The group discussed the proposals about the trapping setbacks and restrictions at length, for the significant majority of the three-hour meeting, but ultimately voted on each with a maximum of one dissenter or abstention to recommend no action.

The other proposals detailed a shortening of the coyote trapping season, two separate plans for restricting trapping of beavers in the Anchor River and Deep Creek area, and one limitation to beaver trapping on the entire Kenai Peninsula. Each of these were voted no action by the group citing the lack of evidence to the declining populations.

The final proposal brought to the table during the meeting was Proposal 161, which directs the Department of Fish and Game to conduct a feasibility study for transporting Sitka Blacktail deer to Unit 15C, on the southwest of the Kenai Peninsula.

Proposals to the boards cannot direct the department to do anything, and as such the proposal was taken by the group as failing to meet the requirements of a proposal, but they did vote to comment on it, saying that they were interested in the discussion of a deer hunting opportunity on the peninsula.

The advisory committee will meet for another public meeting on Jan. 23, again at 6 p.m. in the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association on Kalifornsky Beach Road. In that meeting the group will continue to examine proposals to the Board of Game, as well as to the Board of Fish.

A full list of proposals to the Board of Fish and the Board of Game can be found at adfg.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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