How a Mild Winter Affects Deer and Goats on Kodiak Island

goat_crow_pass_trail_by_kelly_marcum.jpgA goat climbing along Crow Pass Trail in the Chugach Mountains. Photo by Kelly Marcum/Flickr

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

When wandering the Kodiak wilderness or some of its wilder parks, you may hear a gunshot echo in the distance. It’s likely you’ve just heard a deer hunter make his mark. Or not, as the case may be.
Nate Svoboda is the Kodiak area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and says deer season is looking good this year.

“As you may know, in 2011 and 2012, the deer population took a pretty drastic hit with the severe winter we had at that time. However, the last two winters have been fairly mild, so really provided good resources for the deer to recover, and what we’ve found is the deer have rebounded phenomenally on Kodiak island and surrounding islands, and they’re also in really good physical condition.”

Svoboda says next year’s deer season will look good too, depending on whether this winter is as warm as predicted. However, not all the mild weather’s affects on animals may be positive.

“Some of the high alpine species are probably negatively affected just because of the reduce of snow pack and the warmer temperatures have negative effects. Not so much here in Kodiak, but more when you get to the interior and you’re dealing with some high elevation species. The animals on Kodiak are, short of mountain goats, they’re all relatively low elevation species. They don’t rely on any high elevation forage.”

According to the Fish and Game website, Kodiak’s mountain goats descend from 11 females and 7 males moved on-island from the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1950s. Svoboda says in 2015, goat hunting is exploding on Kodiak Island.

“They’re fairly easily accessible along the road system. You don’t have to necessarily get a float plane or take a boat, so that’s really appealing to a lot of people. Our terrain here is a little bit more forgiving than some of the areas of interior Alaska and overall, people can come here, they can do it for a little bit cheaper than they can in other parts of the state. And they can also have opportunities to hunt deer simultaneously.”

Svoboda says there are especially large numbers of goats on the south end of the island. He cautions that hunting goats can be difficult.

“It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a pretty challenging hunt. High elevation. Lots of climbing. You have to outsmart them. There’s more to it than just going out there and shooting them. There’s a lot of planning that’s involved, so it’s not for the amateur hunter to go out there and give it a whirl by themselves. That’s when you have a tendency to have a lot of wounded animals.”

He encourages people to do their homework before they go hunting for goats. If you want to find out more details about deer and goat hunting, you can check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.

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