Prince William Sound deer population at all-time low

Bob Hallinen

Last winter's record-busting snowfall in the Prince William Sound region took a big toll on the region's Sitka black-tailed deer. The die-off may have been as high as 80 percent in some areas, state wildlife managers tell The Cordova Times.


Since being introduced in 1916 by the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, Prince William Sound's Sitka black-tailed deer population has thrived, even to an extreme at times. However, following last winter's record snowfall, biologists say, the population has fallen to an all-time low. State managers are preparing to close the [hunting] season on Dec. 7, about a month shy of normal, with federal managers looking to close the subsistence season for does at the same time.

"Deer can handle the cold and wind, but snow covers their food and restricts their movements," said Dave Crowley, biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We estimate that following last winter the mortality rate was 50%-70% and could be 80% or higher in the western Sound."

The deer may have been eating beach kelp in the springtime before all the snow melted off their usual browsing areas, but they can't properly digest kelp, biologists say. Read more at The Cordova Times.