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Federal managers announce Y-K Delta spring migratory bird harvest closure

A brant goose (Branta bernicla)
Tim Bowman
A brant goose (Branta bernicla)

Hunters will not be allowed to harvest most species of birds or eggs for a month this summer to protect species during peak nesting. Federal wildlife managers have announced upcoming 30-day emergency closures of the 2024 subsistence spring migratory bird harvest in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta region.

From June 8 to July 8, the harvest of most species of waterfowl and their eggs will close. One exception is the harvest of scoters, which will close from June 13 to July 13. Additionally, a special closure for the harvest of black brant from the time of egg laying until young birds are fledged remains in effect through July 18. Egg collecting for both black brant and emperor geese remains closed in 2024.

Randall Friendly, a Bethel-based waterfowl biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, explained the need for the emergency closures.

“To give the birds a higher chance of successfully incubating their nests for the whole duration until hatch, that's the main reason,” Friendly said. “And for scoters, we pushed back five days after because scoters tend to nest a week later than most other waterfowl species.”

Friendly also said that subsistence harvesters should be on the lookout for signs of avian influenza, which first appeared in Alaska in 2022.

“If you see a bird that's weak, or you see a bird showing weird movements like bobbing their head or shaking their heads in circles or they may walk in circles themselves,” Friendly said. “Or they'll fly and they won't be able to fly away, and they just kind of drop and they're just very weak.”

In 2023, avian influenza cases decreased statewide. While a glaucous gull was the only species to test positive on the Y-K Delta in 2023, 18 common murres tested positive in the Dillingham area, according to a state database.

Reports of suspected avian influenza sightings can be made by calling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s sick/dead bird hotline at 866-527-3358.

For more information about waterfowl closures, contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service subsistence coordinator Aaron Moses at 907-543-1021.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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