A female brown bear. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

A female brown bear. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

In recent years, too many female brown bears have been harvested in the Chilkat Valley. That’s according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists, who say the high harvest of sows has caught their attention. The numbers from this spring’s hunt are more encouraging, but Fish and Game still plans to take steps to discourage the harvest of female brown bears.

Three bears were harvested during this spring’s hunt, which closed at the end of May. Biologist Carl Koch reported to the Upper Lynn Canal Fish and Game Advisory Committee Wednesday. He says all three bears were male, two taken by residents and one by a guided non-resident.

“The spring hunt went really well. I gotta commend the hunters,” Koch said. “We had three large males and zero females taken. So that’s the kind of animals that we’re hoping people will target.”

Those numbers – three males and zero females – are much better than last fall’s harvest. Six sows and two boars were taken. Koch says male bears are usually harder to spot in the fall than in the spring.

“In the fall, with the shorter days, you don’t get to be a large adult male by being dumb. They tend to spend time in vulnerable areas when it’s dark out.”

It’s not illegal to harvest sows in Unit 1D. But it is discouraged. The management goal is to keep the harvest of females below 40 percent. In the last five years, that threshold was broken four times.

Total number of female and male brown bears harvested in regulatory years (RY) 2006–2015. (Alaska Fish and Game)

Total number of female and male brown bears harvested in regulatory years (RY) 2006–2015. (Alaska Fish and Game)

“We still have some concerns because of the past high female harvest. And we’ve been above our 40 percent on average over the past five years. So we still want to think about what we can do to keep those numbers down. We want to encourage hunters to target male animals.”

Koch says even though the spring harvest numbers were good, the trend in the past years is concerning enough to take action. He plans to make viewing of an educational video a condition for brown bear hunting permits in Unit 1D. The video explains why taking sows is damaging to the bear population, and how to distinguish males from females. It’s called ‘Take a Closer Look.’

“Taking that female also takes out of the grizzly population the six or seven cubs she might have raised,” says the video’s narrator. “Take one, lose eight. Smart move? Not if you enjoy hunting.”

Putting the educational measure in place is similar to Fish and Game’s recent decision related to Chilkat Valley mountain goat hunting. Hunters are now required to take an educational quiz. That move was also prompted by concerns about the harvest of females.

Koch says he plans to talk with his department about implementing the video requirement and putting it in place by this fall’s brown bear harvest.