ADF&G has scheduled a virtual sheep presentation in January. The presentation will be “zoomed”

william schmaltz

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Nov 3, 2017
Messages
567
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AK
I thought the presentation was well done. Thanks @wantj43 and please pass along my gratitude to all other presenters. The mortality data across ranges is certainly valuable information as these discussions around sheep management in Alaska move forward. It almost feels like there is little we can do in Southcentral to swing the dismal lamb mortality rates. I've also been very interested in treeline creep caused by a changing climate, so I do look forward to additional presentations on that information. As well as the browse/climate study.

It made a guy sick looking at the harvest data and trends and seeing what we already knew put on paper. Especially seeing that 20A harvest number compared to just a handful of years ago as well as the TMA number. We are looking at some tough years as sheep hunters.

It was well documented how long it takes sheep numbers to recover after a black swam weather event, but it does concern me how often these events seem to be happening. At what point do we start to manage sheep in a way that factors in such events every 5-10 years instead of the historic 20-30 years? And what does that management look like? I think that's at least a conversation worth having if there is another similar webinar. It's something I think we need to start thinking about and factoring in; and opening lines of discussion on the topic early is a good route to take instead of being forced into rushed decisions later on or not acting until it's too late.

One of the silver linings mentioned was that early on after a crash recovers, typically larger rams are taken. I'm curious as to what others on here have to say: Would you rather know you're going on a hunt where you will see few rams, but have a better chance of a +40". Or would you rather go on a hunt where you are likely to see a handful of simply legal "average" rams?
 

AlaskaMark

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Nov 27, 2020
Messages
46
Location
Fairbanks
"Watchful Waiting" is not the avenue ADFG needs to go down. I simply can't believe that we still allow nonresident sheep hunters to harvest 60-80% of the rams in 20A & 19C, with the Dept and Board of Game not supporting any limits on nonresident hunters when sheep have been declining for years in those areas.
 

chisana

Junior Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2016
Messages
39
Location
Juneau, Alaska
It was well documented how long it takes sheep numbers to recover after a black swam weather event, but it does concern me how often these events seem to be happening. At what point do we start to manage sheep in a way that factors in such events every 5-10 years instead of the historic 20-30 years? And what does that management look like? I think that's at least a conversation worth having if there is another similar webinar. It's something I think we need to start thinking about and factoring in; and opening lines of discussion on the topic early is a good route to take instead of being forced into rushed decisions later on or not acting until it's too late.


I agree the presentations were very good and much appreciated. Given that harvesting 8 year old rams has little to no impact on the population and we know that hunters are not killing all of the full curl rams in a given range every year, what management actions should be taken? You can't 'bank' legal rams for the proverbial rainy day and restricting opportunity through drawing hunts will likely do little more than reduce the number of rams that end up on the dinner plate and increase the number of rams that die of natural causes.
 

william schmaltz

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Nov 3, 2017
Messages
567
Location
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Given that harvesting 8 year old rams has little to no impact on the population and we know that hunters are not killing all of the full curl rams in a given range every year, what management actions should be taken? You can't 'bank' legal rams for the proverbial rainy day and restricting opportunity through drawing hunts will likely do little more than reduce the number of rams that end up on the dinner plate and increase the number of rams that die of natural causes.
My common sense agrees with you and always has. But I still think sound data needs to give us a concrete answer if our thinking is correct before we can write it off. After last night's presentation, for the first time ever I had a bit of doubt in that line of thinking and I think maybe we do need to look into it more. They made it clear that although the data shows that while most ungulates have nearly a 100% pregnancy rate, the sheep in their studies universally across ranges had significantly lower birth rates (correct me if I'm wrong b/c I had a lot going on last night, but I think I saw years where less than 50% ewes had lambs). Do we have concrete data that shows the reasons for this low rate and that killing only mature rams isn't the reason? Are all ewes getting bred and then miscarrying lambs because of outside environmental stressors? Or are these older sheep more valuable than we thought in making sure these ewes are bred? Maybe they touched on this and I missed it? Maybe there is an actual study somewhere and I missed it? I did have to step away and deal with kids a couple times. Hopefully Joe can maybe touch on something I missed when he sees this post. I know he has very good data based on how full curl and age are recorded on what percentage of legal (mature) sheep are left on the mountain each year. Are those left on the mountain enough?

If we can assume that killing old rams has no impact on the overall population, then we can all agree that who kills them and how many tags are allocated is a social argument and not a biological one. I still believe that the overall effect on sheep populations by killing only mature rams is negligible. So under this assumption what management actions should be taken? I don't know and I don't really have a suggestion at this point. I would've said more aggressive predator management but after seeing data presented last night maybe that's the solution in the interior, but would likely have little impact in south central. I would simply just like to hear it discussed. I am a biologist/ecologist by profession, so I tend to be on the side where folks tasked with management should be proposing a remedy to us and it's our job to question and scrutinize it to make sure the remedy is sufficient. I think it's time for some "what ifs" or at least the acknowledgement that we may be closing in on a time where we need to do something more.
 

Catchfish

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Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
218
Great presentation, I hate to say it but I feel like if they had started studying the kenai mountain sheep before they became so small that now the sample size is insufficient. We would be farther a head then we are now.
 
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wantj43

Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2015
Messages
66
"Watchful Waiting" is not the avenue ADFG needs to go down. I simply can't believe that we still allow nonresident sheep hunters to harvest 60-80% of the rams in 20A & 19C, with the Dept and Board of Game not supporting any limits on nonresident hunters when sheep have been declining for years in those areas.
There is a big difference between harvesting "60-80% of the rams"...in an area and 60-80% of the rams harvested are by non-residents. I know of no instance where 60-80% of the ram population is being harvested.
Joe
 
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wantj43

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Aug 15, 2015
Messages
66
Great presentation, I hate to say it but I feel like if they had started studying the kenai mountain sheep before they became so small that now the sample size is insufficient. We would be farther a head then we are now.
Just a quick note; there have been quite a few studies of sheep on the Kenai from the early or mid sixties there were some fairly extensive studies conducted. From a regulatory prospective a great deal of attention was given the Kenai starting in the early 1900s. Starting with a series of closures to sheep hunting.
 

AlaskaMark

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Nov 27, 2020
Messages
46
Location
Fairbanks
There is a big difference between harvesting "60-80% of the rams"...in an area and 60-80% of the rams harvested are by non-residents. I know of no instance where 60-80% of the ram population is being harvested.
Joe
That's a bit of a semantic stretch there, Joe, I think most understood what I meant. Anyway, again, really appreciated your historical overview, very well done!
 
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wantj43

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Joined
Aug 15, 2015
Messages
66
My common sense agrees with you and always has. But I still think sound data needs to give us a concrete answer if our thinking is correct before we can write it off. After last night's presentation, for the first time ever I had a bit of doubt in that line of thinking and I think maybe we do need to look into it more. They made it clear that although the data shows that while most ungulates have nearly a 100% pregnancy rate, the sheep in their studies universally across ranges had significantly lower birth rates (correct me if I'm wrong b/c I had a lot going on last night, but I think I saw years where less than 50% ewes had lambs). Do we have concrete data that shows the reasons for this low rate and that killing only mature rams isn't the reason? Are all ewes getting bred and then miscarrying lambs because of outside environmental stressors? Or are these older sheep more valuable than we thought in making sure these ewes are bred? Maybe they touched on this and I missed it? Maybe there is an actual study somewhere and I missed it? I did have to step away and deal with kids a couple times. Hopefully Joe can maybe touch on something I missed when he sees this post. I know he has very good data based on how full curl and age are recorded on what percentage of legal (mature) sheep are left on the mountain each year. Are those left on the mountain enough?

If we can assume that killing old rams has no impact on the overall population, then we can all agree that who kills them and how many tags are allocated is a social argument and not a biological one. I still believe that the overall effect on sheep populations by killing only mature rams is negligible. So under this assumption what management actions should be taken? I don't know and I don't really have a suggestion at this point. I would've said more aggressive predator management but after seeing data presented last night maybe that's the solution in the interior, but would likely have little impact in south central. I would simply just like to hear it discussed. I am a biologist/ecologist by profession, so I tend to be on the side where folks tasked with management should be proposing a remedy to us and it's our job to question and scrutinize it to make sure the remedy is sufficient. I think it's time for some "what ifs" or at least the acknowledgement that we may be closing in on a time where we need to do something more.
“Do we have concrete data that shows the reasons for this low rate and that killing only mature rams isn't the reason?”
The question could be answered in part by looking at the variation in annual lamb production.
 
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