KODIAK — All-terrain vehicle drivers are increasingly heading to a critical Alaska salmon spawning area and face the threat of being fined, wildlife officials said.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has warned residents and visitors who have been illegally driving motorized vehicles without permits in Anton Larsen Bay northwest of Kodiak city on Kodiak Island, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Wednesday.
Permits were not granted for legal crossings in Anton Larsen Bay, a critical salmon spawning habitat, but were for 20 other stream crossings in Kodiak, officials said.
Outside of the listed locations, it is illegal to drive motorized vehicles recreationally and violators will be issued tickets, habitat biologist Will Frost said.
Multiple salmon species spawn during high tide in the creeks. During low tide, the waters recede to reveal an expanse of mudflats used by ATV drivers, experts said.
"After salmon spawn in summer, the eggs are in the stream beds, and if people are running up and down those streams, they're killing the eggs," Frost said. This activity may prevent a viable salmon run in that stream in the future, he said.
The vehicles also damage shrubs and grass on the river or creek banks that help prevent erosion during rainstorms, officials said.
Motorized vehicle use around salmon spawning areas without a permit is a misdemeanor and “is prohibited throughout the state of Alaska unless it’s at a designated crossing or at a crossing with an authorized stream permit that has been granted by the Fish and Game habitat office,” wildlife trooper Josh Boyle said.