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Wolf Control Tally at 276

May 31, 2005 | Wolves

By Tim Mowry
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Fairbanks, Alaska (Published: May 29, 2005)

Aerial gunners killed less than half the number the Department of Fish and Game had hoped in the second year of its controversial predator reduction program, but the state's wildlife boss termed the effort a success.

The state issued more than 100 aerial permits to hunters this winter to shoot wolves from airplanes or to land and shoot wolves in five different parts of the state. As of Friday, the reported harvest stood at 276. The total harvest objective was 570 wolves.

"Given the fact it's a volunteer program, I think it's working pretty well," Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said by phone from Juneau.

The fact that hunters took less than half the number of wolves the state was shooting for provided ammunition for critics opposed to the state's predator reduction efforts, who feel the state is overestimating the wolf populations in the control areas.

"This may be a clear indication the state is inflating the number of wolves in these areas, which we have suspected, based on fact there have been few, if any, surveys," said Karen Deatherage, Alaska representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, one of a handful of groups that has voiced opposition to the state's predator control plan.

Priscilla Feral, executive director for the animal-rights group Friends of Animals, which has organized a tourism boycott of Alaska the past two years, put it more bluntly.

"There are far fewer wolves than they thought," said Feral by phone from her Darien, Conn., office.

This season's harvest brings to 420 the number of wolves killed as part of the state's predator control program over the past two years, which is aimed at bolstering moose and caribou herds in certain parts of the state over a five-year period.

Last year, hunters killed 144 wolves in two regions--the Nelchina Basin and McGrath. This year, the state Board of Game adopted programs for three additional areas--Unit 19A in the central Kuskokwim River region near Aniak, Unit 12 and 20E in the Fortymile country near Tok and Unit 16B west of Cook Inlet.

As of Friday, hunters had reported taking 91 wolves in Unit 16B west of Anchorage; 67 wolves in Unit 13 (Nelchina Basin); 61 wolves in Unit 12 and 20E (Tok); 43 wolves in Unit 19A (central Kuskokwim); and 14 wolves in Unit 19D east (McGrath).

Aerial hunters in the Nelchina Basin killed about half--67--the number of wolves they did last year when a harvest of 127 wolves was reported.

State wildlife biologist Bob Tobey in Glennallen said he didn't expect hunters to take as many wolves this year. Not only did last year's control efforts reduce the wolf population, it eliminated several litters that would have replenished the population in areas wolves were killed last year.

"Some of those wolves were breeding wolves so we didn't have the production that we normally have," said Tobey.

Considering that permits weren't issued for Unit 12 and 20E until late January, state wildlife biologist Jeff Gross said the harvest of 61 wolves in the Fortymile was "excellent."

"They were able to reduce wolf populations to the levels outlined everywhere in the area except the portions overrun with caribou," said Gross, referring to the Nelchina Caribou Herd, which moved into Unit 20E earlier than expected and erased any sign of wolf tracks.

The highest number of wolves--91--were killed in Unit 16B west of Cook Inlet, in large part because of its proximity to Anchorage, said Robus. It's only a short flight from Alaska's largest city to Unit 16B.

That's also probably the reason fewer wolves than expected were taken in Units 19A near Aniak and 19D east around McGrath.

"Those areas are further away and it takes more time and fuel for people to get to them," he said, noting the high price of gas.

Biologists are still studying what kind of effect the wolf killings will have on moose and caribou populations, but in Unit 13 it appears moose numbers are improving.

"Our moose calf (percentage) was up to 22 (calves per 100 cows) last year," said Tobey. "That's the highest we've seen in quite a few years."

It appears twinning rates are up this year, too, which is another indication of a healthy and growing moose population. Preliminary estimates peg this year's twinning percentage at 38 percent.

"Now the question is how will survival do, because we're getting the productivity," said Tobey, adding that he talked to a pilot earlier in the week who watched a grizzly bear stalking a newborn set of moose calves.

Though the wolf control program has ended for the season, critics say they will persist with their opposition in a number of ways.

"We'll continue to lobby (Gov. Frank Murkowski) in hopes he will hear the voice of democracy, who are the people who voted twice against this," said Deatherage, referring to the fact Alaskans have twice voted down land-and-shoot wolf hunting. "We will continue to pressure the Interior Defenders of Wildlife will also continue to pressure Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to enforce the federal airborne hunting act, which the group claims is being violated.

Friends of Animals, meanwhile, will continue the tourism boycott of Alaska it began two years ago, Feral said. The group has held more than 200 "howl-ins" in 40 states and five foreign countries in the past two years to protest predator control in Alaska.

The group will be in Superior Court in Anchorage on June 7 to argue that the wolf control program should be stopped because the state doesn't have sufficient data to warrant the killing of wolves.

News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry can be reached at tmowry@newsminer.com or 459-7587.

Comments

It is a terrible shame that more and more animals are being destroyed due to the ignorance of humans. Animals have just as much of a right to be on this planet as we do. We should all try to live in harmony.

I am very disgusted by the behavior of humans. We have once again proven we are the filth of this world. We are going to pay the price, a price that none of us will be able to afford. The "Predator reduction program" is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I don't see us being given permission to shoot up humans and there plenty of "Predators" among us. We need to remember that this world is a privilege to us and NOT our property to do as we please. Mother nature knows how to balance its own. Every time we come across something we don't understand and fear we title it "predator" and want to destroy it.

Murkowski just doesn't seem to get it. The people that have twice voted against this senceless mass slaughter are the same people who pay his salery. Obviously he considers himself supreme and has no regards for the citizens of Alaska OR the lower 48. The governor doesn't understand that tourism dollars bring in more revenue to the state then the so-called moose hunters who are supposedly starving anyway.

This goes out to the people who go around killing any wolves, for sport or any other reason. Remember: It's a universal law that what goes around comes around, so no one of us should ever condone violence against each other or the wolves. Respect the wolves.

IT IS REALLY SAD THAT MAN HAS TO CORRECT HIS MESS-UPS BY DOING WHAT HE THINKS WILL HELP BUT IN ALL IT CAN MAKE THE SITUATION MORE DIFFICULT.THERE ARE NO OVER POPULATION OF ANIMALS BUT MAN HAS OVER POPULATED HIMSELF W/EXTENDING HIMSELF IN AREAS THAT LEAVE ALOT OF ANIMALS NO CHOICE BUT TO PUSH THEM IN OTHER PLACES OR MAKE IT LIKE IT'S A PROBLEM.

Wolves can coexist with elk, and they belong in the Yellowstone ecosystem. It does matter that much of the elk decline is caused by human harvest. We share elk with wolves. Humans take elk for recreational purposes in many locations throughout the West. Wolves are restricted to a tiny portion of their former range and take elk for their survival. Given these circumstances, we have to decide how much sharing is right.

Wolves can coexist with elk, and they belong in the Yellowstone ecosystem. It does matter that much of the elk decline is caused by human harvest. We share elk with wolves. Humans take elk for recreational purposes in many locations throughout the West. Wolves are restricted to a tiny portion of their former range and take elk for their survival. Given these circumstances, we have to decide how much sharing is right.

wolves are beautiful creatures and have the right to live just like us. what is the world coming to? think about EVERYTHING that is going on. if you kill all the wolves, you will have moose, rabbit, and all the other prey of the wolves that are over populated. what about the gas that is wasted when the hunters use them for hunting? are ALL the wolves that are killed ill? i cant believe that. stop the aerial slaughter of the wolves! save the future of alaska!

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