What is the best way to discourage hunters from harvesting female mountain goats? The Upper Lynn Canal Fish and Game Advisory Committee pondered that question at a meeting last week. The committee considered a mandatory quiz for hunters that would educate them about the toll harvesting nannies takes on goat populations. But the group wondered if a quiz would get through to hunters who don’t take nannies by accident, but on purpose.
This is how mountain goat hunting is regulated in the Haines area: Fish and Game biologists take a survey of goat populations. For every 100 adults in a mountain range, they assign six points. When a hunter takes a male goat, that’s one point down, when a female goat is harvested, that’s two points. So, if hunters take nannies, the harvest goes faster and it leaves less opportunity for other hunters. But it also significantly impacts the goats, says Fish and Game area biologist Carl Koch.
“To kill a female, you also take away all the offspring that they’re gonna have,” Koch said. “The loss of too many females can negatively impact the population.”
Koch gave an example of the Takshanuk Range goat harvest. In 2013 and 2014, more than 50 percent of the goats harvested in that area were female. Koch said after that, the goat count decreased.
Resident and hunting guide Al Gilliam brought up the issue up to the committee, asking them to consider some action.
“You know, there’s a lot of people that are simply gonna make a mistake and shoot a nanny,” Gilliam said. “I don’t think they should be penalized. But at the same time, there should be a certain amount of responsibility.”
Koch mentioned a few things that Fish and Game does in other areas to discourage taking nannies. In one game management subunit near Sitka, the biologist assigns a certain number of points, but as soon as someone takes a nanny, he closes the harvest. In the Valdez and Cordova area, Fish and Game requires each hunter to take a goat quiz at least once.
“They would have to learn some goat biology and the rationale for leaning toward harvesting males,” Koch said.
The quiz could also help hunters learn to distinguish between nannies and billies, which is more tricky than, for example, distinguishing between a cow or bull moose.
Fish and Game biologist Kevin White was also on the line. He told the committee about a post-hunt survey they conducted asking hunters around the state a range of questions, including why they harvested nannies.
“One of the key findings that we found disheartening was of the hunters that shot females, 40 percent of those hunters did that knowingly,” White said. “They knew the animal was a female and they decided to take the shot anyways.”
White said some of the reasons people gave for purposely taking nannies was the fact that they were subsistence hunting, or they thought nannies taste better. He said the educational quiz might not be able to reach that 40 percent of people who took the shot knowing they were aiming at a female goat. Advisory committee member Kip Kermoian agreed.
“If most of these guys and gals that were questioned knowingly shot a nanny it seems all the education in the world isn’t going to make a difference,” Kermoian said.
Gilliam said he’s seen goat hunting turn into more of a race in recent years, which could contribute to careless decisions.
“I just kind of wanted to bring this to peoples’ attention as a point of discussion before the next cycle comes up so people can start thinking about it and realize we do have a situation here that may become a problem,” Gilliam said.
The committee didn’t take any action at the meeting, but chair Tim McDonough said he thinks they’ll explore the options and come up with some direction to help discourage harvesting nannies by next hunting season.