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Board of Game closes elk hunting on Zarembo Island

Alaska’s Board of Game has voted to close elk hunting on Zarembo Island near Wrangell to let the transplanted herd there rebound.

The board Monday approved the closure recommended by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at meeting in Sitka.

The state introduced elk to Etolin Island, west of Wrangell in 1987 and the transplanted animals spread to nearby Zarembo Island. Hunting seasons on both islands were opened a decade later. However, on Zarembo, elk hunting has not opened since 2008 because of a low population estimate. Alaska Department of Fish and Game area wildlife biologist Rich Lowell explained that year the department started radio collaring some of the animals to find out more about elk numbers and behavior.

“And research as a result of that effort initiated in 2008 indicated that the elk population on Zarembo was low,” Lowell said. “Therefore we have not issued any drawing or registration permits for the island since 2008 and it is unlikely to reopen for a number of years.”

In 2008 the department estimated 35 elk remained on Zarembo. Lowell told the board that much of the island is covered by logging roads, making for easier access for hunters. And he said the department suspects there have been people poaching elk there despite the closed season.

Board member Bob Mumford of Anchorage agreed it would be best to take the hunting season out of the regulations book. “I don’t think I’ll have any problem voting to go ahead and just close this hunt. Looks like you haven’t had a hunt there since ‘08 am I right on that? Doesn’t look like you’re going to have a hunt there for quite some time,” Mumford said. “Zarembo looks to be a vulnerable area for these elk. If you were to have some possibility that a person could say they could hunt there and you don’t want them to, it does open it up to poaching with them being quite vulnerable.”

The board voted down an amendment that would have left the Zarembo hunt in state regulation with the expectation no permits would be issued until numbers rebound. Board members then supported the original proposal unanimously. The decision closes drawing permit and registration hunts for Zarembo and also would not allow a general season hunt on that island and on three smaller neighboring islands.

Drawing permit and registration hunts on Etolin Island will continue, as will a general season aimed at preventing the herds from spreading to other Southeast islands.

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