As the green forest floor dies back and golden chanterelles emerge, I can’t help but think about the vital role our old-growth forest plays for our wildlife, habitat, and climate.
As you may know, Sitka Black-tailed Deer rely heavily on our old-growth forests during harsher winter months. The older forest’s canopy cover prevents heavy snow from getting too deep while providing just enough light for forage access to woody brush and shrubs.
On Prince of Wales Island, we continue to see large tracts of old-growth disappear within the Unit 2 game management area, which includes Prince of Wales Island and multiple smaller nearby islands, particularly those to the big island’s west. This means maintaining the remaining old-growth forests is critical for sustaining healthy deer populations.
For many POW residents, our prized and beloved Sitka Black-tailed Deer is a staple for many families. As the island is only accessible by small plane, boat, or ferry, and has little to no options for fresh produce and meat, many residents live off the land as a way of life. Therefore, a rough hunting season means a heavy burden for families here.
It’s common to hear about predation, regulation, and habitat as it relates to our Sitka Black-tailed Deer, but what is precisely causing the decline in deer populations on Unit 2? Is there even a decline? We’re hoping to bring some of these questions to life through discussion at the Prince of Wales Island Unit 2 Deer Summit from October 13 to 15 in Craig.
This summit has been in the works for a while now, so I’m looking forward to it finally coming together this year — and in person, too. I’m also excited to announce the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s part in co-sponsoring the POW Unit 2 Deer Summit.
This may not be the first event of its kind on POW, as the island has had many forms of deer symposiums and natural resources events over time. However, the overall goal of this summit is to bring together scientists, land and wildlife managers, hunters, and community members to share information and discuss factors that truly influence the deer population on the island.
The summit will offer special presentations and discussions throughout the day on specific factors including socio-cultural impacts and the aforementioned thoughts on predation, habitat, and regulation. In addition, the event will kick off with a community dinner and offer a special field trip to Harris River Trail to talk about habitat succession post-logging.
The Prince of Wales Island Unit 2 Deer Summit will take place at the Craig Tribal Hall at 1330 Craig-Klawock Highway. It will run from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 13, then from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, October 14, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 15.
No registration is required as this event is completely free. So, if you find yourself on POW while reading this in mid-October, please, come join us. We look forward to the discussion folks will bring.
If we missed you, please be sure to check SEACC’s social media accounts or sign up for our email alerts to get a recap from the Tongass Forest Program Manager — aka me!
Gunalchéesh to the steering committee and cosponsors who made the POW Unit 2 Deer Summit possible. We at SEACC would like to thank the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Prince of Wales Tribal Conservation District, the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, The Nature Conservancy, the United State Forest Service, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the residents of Prince of Wales Island.
Maranda Hamme is SEACC’s Tongass Forest Program Manager