Fairbanks, AK - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has asked bird hunters to hold off for up to two weeks. While the season for upland game birds looks promising, a late spring means chicks are small and family groups are sticking together later than usual.
Alaska is home to four species of grouse and three species of ptarmigan. The season for upland game birds opened in some management units at the beginning of the month. But Fish and Game Biologist Rick Merizon says hunters will do better to wait a week or two more before they head into the field. “All we’re asking is that folks use good judgment," says Merizon. "Right now the family groups for rock and willow ptarmigan and spruce grouse and even other species – the family groups stay together this time of year, in late August and into early September before the juveniles begin to disperse, and when the juveniles are reluctant to disperse, the adults are reluctant to go very far.” Due to persistent snow and a late spring, Merizon says juvenile grouse and ptarmigan are smaller than usual. “So, it would be fairly easy to be a pretty effective predator with these small chicks,” he says.
But this year’s high insect populations and a warm dry summer mean the rate of survival for chicks is also high. Merizon says concerned hunters contacted him about this year’s season. “In fact, I’ve heard from many hunters that have made similar observations, that have told me they are going to hold off and that have told other hunters to hold off or at least have asked us to encourage other hunters like I said to use good judgment.” ADF&G is also asking hunters to voluntarily provide a wing and tail or head from harvested grouse and ptarmigan as part of statewide population productivity study. In some game management units, the season for birds stays open through the end of May.