KENAI — Lynx trapping will not open on the Kenai Peninsula this year as populations of the wildcat and its prey move through a low cycle.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced last week that the trapping season will stay closed for the Peninsula and the region east of Turnagain and Knik arms, the Peninsula Clarion reported.
The size of lynx populations depends on the abundance of snowshoe hare, the cat's main food source. The openings and closings of trapping seasons are typically based on the hare population size.
The hare populations are at the end of a low phase after peaking in the winter of 2011-12, according to the game department.
"The cycles always vary and they vary in intensity, depending on a lot of vegetative and climate conditions," said Jeff Selinger, a biologist for the game department. "But generally speaking they're 10 to 12 years, somewhere in there."
Hare feed on low-growing shrubs and new shoots of aspen, birch and willow trees, vegetation that sprouts up after a forest fire. Following wildfires in the previous lynx population cycle, a lot of "habitat turnover" occurred in the central Peninsula, Selinger said.
"We're starting to see more hares now," Selinger said. "Usually you want to wait a year or two after the hares start coming back — not necessarily peaking, but they're well established and on the upswing.
The hare population may grow in areas burned by the 2014 Funny River fire, Selinger said. The lynx population will likely follow the hare growth.
"Once they start climbing up, you give the lynx a year or two to start litter production and the survival of kits — that'll go with the hare increase — and that will allow for the trapping season to open up," Selinger said.
A lynx hunting season is planned to open on the Peninsula in January 2019.