Troopers explain role in wildlife management

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The monthly Wildlife Wednesday event series kicked off tonight at the University of Alaska Southeast.

    Lt. Matthew Dobson, Deputy Detachment Commander in Southeast Alaska, was the featured speaker.  He has served as a Wildlife Trooper for 22 years.  He is also a pilot.

    He said in many other states Wildlife Troopers are called Game Wardens.  He emphasized they are hiring, can work around a college schedule, and offer tech jobs to people as young as 18 years old.

    The Wildlife Troopers are divided into two detachments, Northern and Southern. There are 92 commissioned officers, one of the lower numbers in the entire nation.  They have 57 civilian personnel, 43 patrol aircraft, 19 medium and large patrol vessels, most of them in southeast Alaska.  Their territory includes 6,640 miles of coastline and 663,300 square miles,  They serve a population of 739,795.  There is one trooper for every 72 miles of coastline and one trooper for every 7,200 square miles.

    Lt. Dobson has served in most parts of Alaska.  He has served in close to 150 communities in the state.  He has lived in Juneau for the past 11 years  "You get to see a lot of neat things in Alaska."  He would like to one day see a polar bear in the wild.

    The mission of troopers includes reduction of unlawful harvest and sales of wild stocks, reduction of illegal harvest and sale of sport fish, prevention of waste and illegal harvest, enforcement and education regarding boating safety and reduction of watershed damage and non-compliance of environmental permits.. 

    They also identify illegal guiding and transporter activity.  They assist federal agencies to enforce fishery laws. 

    Lt. Dobson said boating safety is the main goal.  They focus on kids having life jackets on while boating.  "It is unfortunate how many young kids they lose out in western Alaska due to swimming.  There is a really high drowning rate, it's very unfortunate."

    In Southeast, another big responsibility is maritime enforcement.  The 84-foot patrol vessel Enforcer returned to Juneau this summer.  They prioritize commercial fisheries.  They also have vessels in Hoonah, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, Craig, and Ketchikan.  They are listed as 27-33 feet medium class vessels.

    They also conduct dedicate gaming patrols.  He said officers stay busy all through the year.  "There is so much that goes on.  There is dive fishing, sea cucumbers, and others all going on at the same time October 1. "

    they also have three aircraft in southeast Alaska.

    Lt. Dobson said an average annual harvest of deer numbered 12,300 between 1987 and 2007.  In 2017, there were 9,000 deer harvested by 8,466 hunters.

    In parts of Alaska like Kotzebue, hunters can harvest five caribous per day.  This is because caribou herds move around and they might only visit an area once every six months.   He said the Alaska Department and Fish and Game decided on five per day because that is the amount of caribou one hunter could reasonably handle in one day.  He said ADFG does not expect these harvest limits to be met.  "The more animals available to hunters, the more they are inclined to waste, it is kind of a hard deal."

    He said it is troopers job to protect the resource and pay attention to the time limits set for duck hunts.  He said ducks know the time when hunting is allowed and its important to enforce the shooting hours.

    The state does not set caliber limits on rifles.  It is not a problem for good shots to kill caribou.  Bad shots can injure animals when using a .22 caliber rifle.

    In 2017 there were 233 moose harvested in game management units 1-5 or southeast Alaska by 1,803 hunters.  He said there is a strong deer population in Sitka.  More female deer can be hunted this year. 

    Local advisory committees do get a lot of input in the development of harvest limits and conditions.

    In every community, local charities receive meat from the game that is harvested illegally.

    One of the main goals of regulation is to make hunting and fishing fair for all resource users.  They don't want to punish lawful hunters and fishermen by failing to punish violators. They also want compliance from hunters with all reporting requirements like harvest reports, harvest permits and harvest tickets.

    "When hunting moose, don't shoot one if you're not sure about the size.  If you see a big moose you will say holy cow," he added.

    He said verbal warnings don't do much good, a written warning will get peoples attention. 

    He said the deer population is very healthy due to some mild winters.  He said in places like Petersburg deer are common place in residential neighborhoods.

    "We do have a lot of deer.  The deer populations are doing great."

    He encouraged the public to report poaching or suspicious activity, engage with state and federal prosecutors in case of an arrest, engage with state and federal courts on cases of interest, be active with the local and regional advisory committees and be active with your local ADFG or US Fish and Wildlife Service agency.

    You can report violations at 1-800-478-3377. 




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