Hunters in Southeast Alaska must now pass a quiz to hunt mountain goats — and one might say it’s quite horny.
Distinguishing between male and female goats, primarily by their horns, is the primary emphasis of the online quiz by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which issues hunting permits for the season that begins Aug. 1.
Riley Woodford, a department spokesperson, said officials want hunters to target males instead of female goats from being hunted because of the animals’ low reproductive rates. He said knowing the difference is important for sustainable management.
“They don’t want people to shoot nanny goats, because the females are the ones that build up the population,” he said. “Because it’s very difficult to identify male and female mountain goats, typically in the past, especially when there weren’t population concerns — it didn’t matter. They would let people shoot a goat and they called it good. But now they really want people to hunt only billy goats and shoot the males. They haven’t quite gotten to the point of making it illegal to shoot a nanny goat. But what they want people to do is learn how to identify and target billies.”
There’s also concerns about the locations where people choose to hunt.
“Mountain goat hunting is super hard, because you’ve got to get up in the alpine and there aren’t a lot of places to do that,” Woodford said. “So there tends to be a lot of pressure on mountain goats in areas that are accessible.”
The 25-question quiz features photos and asks would-be hunters to identify the sex of the goat(s), along with variations such as “Should you take this shot?” One such question showing a goat on a ridgeline states, after the quiz is completed, the answer is “no” because “this is a skyline shot and the mountain goat is running. Always know your target and what is beyond. There may be a kid or another hunter just out of sight.”
The website also offers study material people are urged to review before taking the quiz.
At least 20 out of the 25 questions must be answered accurately to pass, at which point the hunter’s information will be placed in an online database of people eligible for registration or draw permits. Roy Churchwell, an area biologist for the department’s Juneau-Douglas office, said a person who fails the test can retake it until they pass.
“People can take it over and over again,” he said. “And hopefully as they’re taking it they’re learning what constitutes a male from a female and how to correctly answer those questions.”
There isn’t a specific timeline or goal for determining if the quiz is achieving its intended goal, Churchwell said.
“It is something we’ll try for a while,” he said. “And hopefully it will be effective and hopefully female harvests will decline a little bit. And if that’s the case we’ll consider it a success. If it doesn’t decline, or if it goes up, we’ll have to take other measures.”
Some parts of Southeast Alaska are subject to stricter management strategies due to goat populations or other circumstances, according to department officials. The quiz has been required in a region that includes Haines and Skagway for the past several years, and a new regulation now imposes penalties on hunters who kill female goats in that area, Churchwell said.
“Residents cannot harvest a female goat,” he said. “If they do, they cannot hunt goats (in that region) the following year. For non-residents it’s illegal for them to harvest a female goat and if they do they’ll get a citation.”
Also, the department announced Wednesday a portion of a zone that includes the islands of Yakutat Bay and Disenchantment Bay are closed to state registration permit hunting this year. The Nunatak Bench area also remains closed to mountain goat hunting.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com or (907) 957-2306.