Utilization of Biotic Resources

Terrestrial Animals


Although marine mammals are the mainstay of coastal and island people of the region, inland and eastern Norton Sound residents depend heavily on terrestrial animals for subsistence. Residents of Noatak, Kotzebue, Selawik, and villages along the Kobuk River use caribou as a major item of subsistence, and Point Hope people also add caribou to their diet. Moose are relatively more important at Nome, Koyuk, Shaktoolik, and Unalakleet, although residents of Noatak, Kotzebue, Selawik, and villages of the Kobuk River take them in considerable numbers. Black and grizzly bears are taken primarily along the Kobuk River and at Selawik, and grizzlies are also taken on the east side of Norton Sound. Wolves and wolverines are taken primarily at Kotzebue, along the Kobuk, and at Selawik and Buckland, but very few at Shishmaref or Wales. A few Dall sheep are utilized by residents of the Kobuk River and Kotzebue.

Small game—ptarmigan, grouse, snowy owls, porcupines, and hares—are taken primarily along the Kobuk River, in the Selawik area, and on the Seward Peninsula. Ground squirrels are also used in considerable numbers in the Norton Sound area. Subsistence trapping is minor in the region, although many Arctic foxes are taken at St. Lawrence Island.


Fur trapping is of considerable commercial importance in the region. The only records available, however, relate to numbers of furs exported by trappers, and they may include furs taken for subsistence use and exported for processing as well as dealer purchases of animals trapped outside the region. About the same number of terrestrial animals seem to be trapped for commercial sale as are taken for subsistence. Foxes, both Arctic and red, and lynx are most important, and some marten, weasels, and wolverine are also taken. The number of wolves taken has decreased in recent years due to restrictions on aerial hunting. Most trapping seems to be concentrated in the Kotzebue-Kobuk River-Selawik area except for Arctic fox which show up in the subsistence records for St. Lawrence Island and are probably also important in the commercial harvest.

Sport and Recreation

Terrestrial animals in the Northwest Region are not as recognized a sport and recreation resource statewide as the moose, bears, and caribou of the Alaska Peninsula or sheep of the Wrangell or Chugach Mountains. Although there is considerable game in the region, animals are not sufficiently abundant nor of sufficient trophy value to attract large numbers of hunters from outside the region. This situation is changing as pressure on game populations in other areas increases.

[Alaska Regional Profiles, Northwest Region, p. 171]

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