2012 hunting forecast: Yukon
Deer: White-tailed deer are much less common than mule deer in the Yukon, and though it’s legal to harvest either species, hunters are asked to voluntarily refrain from killing whitetails. Most mule deer hunting occurs along road corridors with natural south-facing slopes, in arid grasslands or on agricultural properties with deer forage. Hunters are asked to submit samples of fresh blood and fecal matter from their kills, as well as any parasites they find. These samples help wildlife officials monitor changes in the health of hunted species.
Moose: Most of the Yukon is open for moose hunting. There are 65,000 to 70,000 moose in total, and overall, numbers are thought to be stable. The winter of 2011–12 was slightly warmer than usual, with somewhat more snow than normal. However, weather likely had little effect on the various ungulate populations. The southern Coast Mountains continues to be an area of concern because of low numbers; a limited permit hunt has been in place since the mid-1980s.
Bears: Grizzly bears inhabit the entire Yukon, from the B.C. border to Herschel Island off the Arctic coast. Since the Yukon’s northern interior environment is less productive than its southern or coastal areas, bears are spread fairly thinly over the landscape. The territorial population is estimated at 6,000 to 7,000 animals. Wildlife managers are working to reduce the harvest of female bears, as well as the number of defence-of-life and property kills each year. The reproductive rate of the species is low, and the loss of a few female bears can have a significant impact on a population. Resident hunters may only harvest a grizzly bear once every three years, and all outfitters have a quota for grizzlies. A rough estimate puts the Yukon black bear population at 10,000.
Caribou: Caribou are managed on a herd-by-herd basis, and hunters are advised to check the regulations closely. The territorial population of woodland caribou is estimated at 30,000 to 35,000 animals, up from 22,000 to 30,000 last year. Regulations have been passed to bring woodland caribou hunting in all of zone 2 in line with other zones. As a result, the bag limit is now one woodland caribou. No cows can be harvested, and the extended hunt dates have been removed. The game management subzone in the range of the specially protected Chisana caribou herd is now closed to hunting. New for 2012, the Porcupine barren-ground caribou bag limit is now two bulls per licensed hunter, up from one last year.
Upland birds: Very little survey work is done on upland birds, say the territory’s game managers. However, birds are locally abundant where there is suitable habitat. Ptarmigan and blue grouse are found in subalpine ranges, while ruffed grouse can be hunted in mixed woods. Spruce grouse are found in much of the conifer forests; sharp-tailed grouse are rarer, but locally abundant in central Yukon.
Waterfowl: Last winter in the Yukon, the La Niña weather pattern resulted in a late, cool spring. Snowfall and snowpacks were well above average and, depending on the region, wetland water levels are marginally or substantially better than last year. Improving water levels are expected to have positive effects on waterfowl populations.