A researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is working with the state to find out more about Alaska’s Dall sheep. Complaints from hunters and guides have prompted the state to find out whether there is a problem with existing hunting regulations.
Of the nearly 180 proposals considered by the Board of Game in the last year, 26 of them had something to do with Dall sheep. Some have proposed changes to the hunting season, others address the number of sheep tags allocated by the state to non-resident hunters. Todd Brinkman, a wildlife biologist at UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology, says, “I feel fairly confident saying there is a problem. And the problem is large enough that some changes will have to be made.”
“The folks I talk to agree that there’s too much pressure on the resource and to sustain quality hunting opportunities into the future, everybody is going to have to make a sacrifice," Brinkman said. "We’re probably going to have to reorganize the way sheep hunting is structured in Alaska.”
Brinkman hosted close to 100 focus groups statewide with interested parties. From those conversations, he developed a survey. This week, anyone over the age of eighteen who has hunted or applied for a sheep tag in Alaska over the last five years is likely to receive a postcard in the mail with directions for how to take part in the survey online.
“The Department and Board of Game are way overdue on getting this sort of information, because I think it will be extremely helpful for them in making decisions," Brinkman said.
The survey will provide more information about the people who hunt sheep. It will also provide more information about the sheep population itself. Brinkman says the survey could provide novel information. The state hasn’t conducted a comprehensive study of Dall sheep since the 1980’s. Much of that information has been lost, according to Brinkman. Final results from this new survey are expected in the fall, 2015.