[u]Deer shortage leads to diet change[/u]
HOONAH: More fish to be eaten after poor subsistence hunt.
JUNEAU – A dwindling deer population around Hoonah means residents will be eating a lot more fish this winter.
Deer numbers were hard hit by last year’s heavy snowfall in the Southeast Alaska community.
Local hunter Ben Botts said he knew the deer population was hurting when he saw piles of bones and tufts of deer fur in bear scat.
“You could see signs of total wipeout of deer because their food source had been covered up (by snow),” he said.
With survivors staying higher in the mountains, hunters couldn’t bag anything when hunting season opened in September. In past years, they’ve shot from roads or on the beach.
Botts, a hiker, didn’t change tactics this season, except he spent more time in the woods.
Some residents anticipated a poor season for deer hunting, so they canned and dried fish in preparation.
Instead of hunting for deer, Hoonah Mayor Dennis Gray caught halibut. He plans to hunt for seal this winter.
But many in the community of 650 feed their families by subsistence, an economic lifestyle characterized by living off the land.
“People definitely utilize deer for meals. It’s a good part of their protein in the winter,” Gray said.
About 70 percent of Hoonah residents hunt and gather food, said Johanna Dybdahl, tribal administrator for the Hoonah Indian Association.
Last fall, residents asked state and federal agencies to close parts of the hunting season to help the deer numbers rebound. Agencies shut down the doe season.
The regular hunting season was set to close last Monday.