Emperor goose hunt will bring temporary jobs to 6 YK Delta villages

Emperor goose in Gibson Cove.
(Lisa Hupp / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

The subsistence emperor goose hunt expected to open April 2 will bring more than meat and a resumed tradition to the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. In some communities, it will also bring jobs.

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For April and May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hire a worker in each of six communities to collect data on the goose harvest: Chefornak, Chevak, Hooper Bay, Newtok, Nightmute and Toksook Bay.

“Basically, they are available for when hunters come back from the field to talk to the hunters and record the number of emperor geese harvested [and] the age, sex, and weight of the birds harvested,” Bryan Daniels said. He’s a biologist with the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge who’ll help train the workers.

Hunters can chose whether or not to participate. Because emperor geese have not been harvested in Alaska for 30 years, wildlife managers want to track which geese hunters are targeting when the hunt opens.

“So are more adults that may be nesting being harvested, or are more juveniles that may not be at nesting age being harvested?” Daniels asked.

The managers also want to weigh the birds to know the state of their health after their migration to the area.

“That gives us an idea of winter habitat quality [and] whether or not they’re able to get all the nutrients they need from their winter habitat before migrating for nesting,” Daniels explained.

60 to 80 percent of the emperor goose population breeds in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. They arrive from Southwest Alaska in early April and begin nesting by early June.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also host community meetings in the six villages to promote conservative hunting of the still vulnerable bird population.

And like every summer, the Service is also offering opportunities for young people to work with biologists through paid internships and fieldwork positions.

The open subsistence hunt is expected to run April 2 through August 31 with a 30 day nesting closure.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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