Billy No. 18 heads for high ground above Blue Lake after being tranquilized and collared by biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Goat hunting, specifically the taking of females, or nannies, was the subject of a proposal before the Board of Game at its Sitka meeting this week. (Photo by Phil Mooney, ADF&G)

The Alaska Board of Game has rejected tougher restrictions for hunters who shoot nannies. Managers have been concerned about declining numbers of the female mountain goats near Sitka. But the seven-member board voted unanimously on Tuesday to keep the status quo in place.

Attendees to Tuesday’s Board of Game meeting in Sitka could pick up a variety of papers and booklets at the back of the room. One of them was a series of photographs. A quiz you can give yourself. Billy, or Nanny?

Telling the difference between a male and female mountain goat is a big deal for hunters, and for wildlife managers. In some cases, if a single hunter shoots a nanny, it has the potential to close an entire area to hunting of any goats, for anyone.

And the state keeps close tabs on the area around Sitka. In 2005, there were 883 goats in the busiest hunting zones on Baranof Island. Last year’s estimate? 352.

That decline worries state wildlife managers. And the proposal before the Board of Game on Tuesday would have brought the hammer down: If you shoot a nanny, you can’t take a goat in the unit around Sitka for the next five years.

Nathan Turner is vice chairman of the Board of Game.

“I think five years is a bit excessive,” Turner said. “To start out with a sledge hammer instead of a small hammer might be a bit much.”

Turner’s comments echoed those of chairman Ted Spraker, of Soldotna. He said the Department of Fish & Game needs to get a handle on the overharvest of nannies, but that the current system, of closing areas by emergency order, seems to be working.

Right now, points are tallied for taking a nanny versus a billy. Nannies are worth two points, and billies are worth one. When a zone reaches a certain number of points, it’s shut down to hunting. Spraker wondered if the points system could be expanded.

“Have you looked at going to, say, 4 points for nannies, or 5 points for nannies?” Spraker said. “And then, in conjunction with that? Put in a real short reporting period for the female harvest, so if you take a nanny you have to report in three days.”

Sitka-area wildlife biologist Phil Mooney said in 2010, the department issued emergency orders for some areas of Baranof Island. It allowed hunters to take a number of billies, or one nanny, before an area shut down.

“Well, the first hunter out took a nanny and shut that area down,” Mooney said. “My gosh, people stormed into our office and said ‘Who the heck took that nanny? Can you post their picture up on the wall?’ I said no, we can’t do that. But it definitely got their attention.”

Fewer nannies were taken the next year, Mooney said, and he thinks a lot of it is a result of the tough measures in 2010, which led hunters to self-police.

“It took a short period of time in Sitka for people to figure out who took the nanny,” he said. “And they put peer pressure on them. And that’s why I think you’ll see the drop right there. But at the same time, our survey trends are still down. But the general consensus of the group was ‘We need to do something pretty serious until we see those numbers come back up.’”

The Board of Game appeared to agree with the need to prevent over harvest of the nanny goats, but said the current system was working. It voted unanimously to reject the tougher restrictions for taking nannies.