More than 100 people around the state were disappointed recently when they found out emails telling them they received hunting permits were incorrect. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says an unusual computer glitch triggered false results throughout the state for moose, caribou and musk ox hunts.
“Big deal, you know. It’s not just ‘oh I got a moose tag, that’s great.’ It’s kind of like a responsibility to go out there and get a legal moose,” says Haines resident Michael Hoy. He’s one of about 30 people in the Upper Lynn Canal, hunting unit 1D, who thought they’d gotten a permit to hunt moose when the results were announced earlier this month. Then, about a week later, he heard otherwise.
“Just wish they didn’t get our hopes up for this kind thing because it is a big deal for such a small valley and the population of people that live here,” says Hoy.
A data processing error at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game led to the incorrect reporting of results. Across the state, 148 people were told they had received a permit for their Tier II subsistence hunt, to later find out they had not.
Bruce Dale is the director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation at Fish and Game.
“We really regret it,” says Dale. “We’re not sure how it happened but we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Dale says the software that’s supposed to correct typos in permit applications inadvertently changed the scores that determine whether an applicant receives a permit. He says an error like this is uncommon.
According to Fish and Game information officer Ken Marsh, moose, caribou and musk ox hunts were impacted across the state. Those hunts are limited to a certain number of permits.
“These tier two hunts are for situations where there’s not enough of the resource to go around and meet subsistence needs,” says Dale. “In those cases all the other uses are eliminated. And then amongst the subsistence uses people are ranked relative to their reliance on the resource.”
That is determined by a few different factors: the number of years an applicant and any one member of the household has hunted or eaten meat from the game population and the number of days spent hunting or fishing during the last regulatory year in each hunt area. They also take into account the cost of food in the community where you live and the cost of fuel.
Dale says by regulation the department has to give out permits to those who score the highest.
“So that resulted in a situation where because they’re the most reliant on the resource we had to give it to those people,” says Dale. “And there weren’t any extra moose so we couldn’t do anything to accommodate the people who were wrongly told they got a permit.”
The error not only got peoples hopes up and then disappoint them. It also meant people who did qualify were told they didn’t. Dale says nearly 150 people were first told that they didn’t get a permit, only to find out later that they did.
Haines resident Hoy says he didn’t actually expect to get a moose tag, but he was pleasantly surprised when he received an email that he could participate.
“Most of us have families that depend on the participation, going out and getting a moose and living off the meat for a while,” says Hoy. “Me having quite a big family now because I just got married, I have some elders that would have liked to have some moose in their freezer this next coming winter.”
According to Marsh, there is an appeals process for people who think they do deserve a permit.
You can check your permit status here.