Healthy bison herd eludes Yukon hunters
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 | 5:15 PM CT
The Yukon's annual bison hunt has ended with hunters unable to meet the bison harvest target set by wildlife managers for this season.
Not enough bison were hunted to keep the herd's numbers down, despite a record number of permits being issued for the December-March hunt by the territory's environment department.
"We have a bit of an embarrassment of riches, if you will, in that we do have quite a healthy bison herd out there," senior wildlife biologist Tom Jung told CBC News on Tuesday.
The Yukon's Aishihik wood bison herd numbers well over 1,000, which is about double the size wildlife managers want.
When the hunting season started, managers lifted hunting restrictions, issued nearly 250 hunting permits and extended the hunt period by one month.
In March, department officials even published maps on the department's website, to show hunters where to find groups of bison.
"It was probably the easiest year to go hunt bison because of lifting of some restrictions but Mother Nature didn't really cooperate with us," Jung said.
Bitterly cold temperatures and a lack of snow this winter have been blamed for just 80 bison kills reported to date — 16 fewer than what officials had hoped for.
That number was also not enough to control the herd's numbers, which have been growing since the bison were brought into the Yukon in the late-1980s.
Jung said managers remain hopeful that predators will soon pick up the slack for human hunters.
"We have found some evidence that wolves are starting to prey on the bison as well," he said. "So we think that there will be some natural predation that may start to keep the bison in check."
In the meantime, Jung said the environment department will consider other options, including the possibility of issuing a bison permit to all licensed hunters in the territory.
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