The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By Charlotte Westing
ADFG Biologist 

Don't be a ninny and shoot a nannie

Give goat population a break by taking billys during hunts

 

Photo courtesy ADF&G/Milo Burcham

Biologists are encouraging hunters to avoid killing nannies and kids this hunting season.

Road system mountain goat hunts are generally very popular due to their relative convenience and affordability. However, these hunts are challenging to manage because they generally have a small quota, and harvest a high percentage of female goats (nannies). Choosing to take a billy instead of a nanny results in a longer season and a healthier goat population.

A minimum count of goats from the area east of Shoup Glacier and north of the Richardson Highway (RG248 hunt area) last year found 108 goats. That high count allowed for the hunt to be opened for the first time since 2009. Although the maximum allowable harvest was five "goat units", with billies counting as one and nannies counting as two, only three animals could be taken because two of them were females. Biologists use "goat" units to try and account for the impact that taking a nanny has on the population. Taking nannies results in less opportunity for everyone because the quota is reached faster. Last season was only 48 hours long. Hunting in future years is also reduced (as in this area specifically) to prevent further conservation concerns. When nannies are taken, especially in a small quota area, the likelihood increases that too many goats will be taken.

The number of breeding females in a population has a big impact on whether a population will grow, remain stable, or decline. Mountain goat populations are slow to grow or rebuild in part because nannies do not breed until they are between 4 and 6 years old. The fewer nannies of breeding age in a population the more time it will take to replace animals that died.

There are many reasons why goats in this area could use a break. Deep snow (like the snowpocolypse of 2011-2012), has a negative impact on goat survival. Goats often die in avalanches and last winter there were many. Recent research by ADFG in southeast Alaska has also shown that hot summers (like the last two summers) are also hard on goats. They may spend more time trying to stay cool in areas that are not ideal for eating and don't go into winter as fat. Last year's goat survey found 17 kids per 100 adults. These are not exceptionally low, but it suggests the population isn't really growing.

So, now you may be wondering "With all of these reasons to not shoot a nanny, why do people shoot them?" ADF&G biologists in Southeast Alaska surveyed hunters and found that those who unintentionally harvested nannies were: 1) less experienced, 2) tended to take longer shots and 3) were less likely to use spotting scopes.

Not everyone that harvests a female does so by accident. Some hunters choose to harvest a nanny because it is what they want to eat. Hunter surveys found that 42 percent of hunters that harvested females did so intentionally. Yet, the survey found the palatability of meat harvested from males vs. females did not differ and was almost always rated as excellent or good quality. If you still choose to harvest a female on purpose, I would like to encourage you to hunt in an area with a large quota or fewer hunters.

Valdez Star file photo

Mountain goats live in rugged terrain in the mountains surrounding Valdez and its marine environment.

This year, to try to reduce nanny harvest, hunters participating in RG248 will have to complete the online goat quiz before picking up their permit at "The Prospector." To do this, go to our website at http://hunt.alaska.gov to learn to identify goats before pulling the trigger and look at pictures that test your knowledge. When you pass the quiz, you will be emailed confirmation that you can print or show when you are signing up to participate in the hunt. It's very important to remember to check the quota before you hunt and report your hunt as soon as possible (at least within 5 days of kill.)

Decisions made in the field can influence not only the success of your hunt, but the amount of opportunity remaining for everyone and the long-term health of the resource. Thanks for taking the time to make a good call.

(Charlotte Westing is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Prince William Sound area wildlife biologist. She works out of the Cordova area office and can be reached at 424-3215.)

 

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