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Alaska Fish And Game Employees Kill Entire Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Wolf Pack


Alaska Fish and Game Department employees, who in the past have gunned down wolves that roam outside of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, have wiped out an entire pack that had claimed the preserve as part of its territory.

"The Alaska Department of Fish and Game eliminated all 11 members of the pack outside of the preserve last week as part of ADF&G’s ongoing aerial predator control program in the upper Yukon and Fortymile Rivers region," said Greg Dudgeon, the preserve's superintendent in a release Friday.

The pack had been monitored by Park Service researchers since 2007 as part of a decades-long ecological study. The research helped provide "detailed information about the condition of Interior Alaska’s wolves, how they disperse, and the numbers of wolves utilizing the preserve to den and raise pups," a Park Service release said.

"Removal of the Lost Creek pack follows similar losses from ADF&G predator control efforts last spring which killed 36 wolves in the area, reducing the population using the preserve by more than half," the release added.

Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve was created in 1980 by the Alaska Lands Act to maintain the environmental integrity of the Charley River basin in its undeveloped natural condition for public benefit and scientific study, and to protect populations of fish and wildlife, including wolves. As top predators, wolves have an important role in the natural functioning of ecosystems by regulating prey species.


Fear of wolves is not usually based on anything that is rational or scientifically supportable. Throughout Idaho we see billboards asking if we "care" that elk and moose populations have dropped by incredibly large numbers lately (I forget what the percentage they claim is -- 70% comes to mind, but not sure). What they don't tell us is that the numbers they give for population drop are far above the real numbers. They also don't tell us that overpopulation by elk and moose have seriously depleted browse on their ranges, leading to very high percentages of winter kill and other deadly factors.

Then there is the issue of increasing development of what was once habitat for elk and moose into habitat for homo sapien. There is a very good argument to made that wolves may not be responsible for reductions of elk and moose populations, but may actually be serving to provide for healthier herds.

Of course, it's always much easier for lazy people to spout anything they hear no matter how questionable the source than it is to do some simple research and try to learn the truth.

Here is a link to a 2011 PDF from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that points up the complexity to trying to measure effects of predation versus other environmental influences on the elk herds of Idaho. If you take the time to read through it, you will note that it directly contradicts much of the propaganda of anti-wolf groups. It's also apparent that predation by human hunters takes a greater toll upon Idaho's elk than wolves do.

EDIT :: Nuts, that link doesn't work because it's abbreviated. But if you Google ELK AND PREDATION IN IDAHO - DOES ONE SIZE FIT ALL, you should find it.

This information is from an AF&G Upper Yukon/Tanana Predation Control Plan from 2007, so the information is a bit dated, but it still offers some insights into the subject. According to that five-year plan, "residents of the [area] have expressed concern, since the early 1980s, about the chronically low density of the Fortymile Caribou Herd and of moose in Units 12 and 20E. They felt the low density of moose was due to a combination of wolf and brown bear predation."

As a result, the AF&G set new goals to increase the Fortymile Caribou Herd to achieve an "intensive management population objective of 50,000 to 100,000 and a harvest objective of 1,000 to 1,500."

The goal at the same time was to increase the moose population is this area to 8,744 – 11,116, which would allow an annual taking of 547 to 1,084 moose.

Sounds like a pretty conservative ratio of both caribou and moose taken to the total population, but I am certainly not an expert on Alaskan wildlife.

To accomplish these goals, wolf numbers were to be reduced.

They were apparently successful. According to the April 2013 article in Alaska Business Monthly, "The number of wolves in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve has decreased by more than 50 percent from fall 2012 ... The drop is substantially more than normal and coincides with predator control efforts by Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted near the preserve."

It was interesting to note that the state responded with increased wolf removals based on the opinion of area residents that wolves and bears were to blame for what was perceived to be low population densities of caribout and moose. I didn't see any mention of professional opinions by biologists on the subject, but I didn't wade through the whole document.


The answer to your question, ec, is economics.

Hmm, maybe. But 11 wolves out of a state population of 7,000-11,000 wouldn't seem to have much impact on economics. But then, is a wolf's life more valuable than an elks?

Idaho kills 23 wolves from helicopter this month in Lolo Zone

On the Value of Wolves

Murie's conclusions that wolves were not a scourge on the landscape - and his call for wolves to be protected, not exterminated - made him unpopular, even within the Park Service itself. But he persevered, and eventually many of his proposals were adopted.

Adolph Murie (1899-1974)

After visiting Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska as a 22-year-old college student, Adolph Murie was inspired to pursue his doctoral degree in biology. He became an important voice in preserving wild nature in national parks. He conducted a number of wildlife studies for the Park Service in a range of parks, the most significant being his landmark observations of wolves in their natural habitat at Mount McKinley. His conclusions that wolves were not a scourge on the landscape - and his call for wolves to be protected, not exterminated - made him unpopular, even within the Park Service itself. But he persevered, and eventually many of his proposals were adopted.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Murie objected to plans for building a paved highway into the heart of Mount McKinley National Park, and for a hotel and gas station near Wonder Lake. He won a partial victory when the Park Service ended the paving after the first 13 miles and abandoned the plans for the hotel and other construction.

Murie's half-brother Olaus, also a biologist, was an important figure in American conservation, serving as a director of the Wilderness Society and playing an instrumental role in the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the passage of the Wilderness Act. Olaus' wife, Mardy, was his full partner in the conservation efforts and carried on after his death. She played a key role in the fight for creation of the Alaska parks in the late 1970s and was eventually awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

The Murie Center in Grand Teton National Park, created from a ranch given to the park by the families of the Murie brothers, continues their conservation work. On August 16, 2004, the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park was officially opened and dedicated to Adolph Murie, in honor of his work to enlarge and protect national parks and their wildlife populations.

The answer to your question, ec, is economics. Alaska officials prefer to encourage big game hunting over wildlife viewing. Wolves eat the big game that human hunters hunt. So Alaska's approach is to kill the wolves to provide more game for hunters (who buy hunting licenses, pay hunting guides, and stay in lodges).

It would be interesting to see a study comparing the revenue tied to wildlife viewing and to hunting in Alaska. After all, wildlife viewers also spend money on guides and lodging.

And it would be interesting to see the hunting pressure around Yukon-Charley Rivers. How many hunters pay to hunt there each year, and how much do they spend in total during their stay? And how much did it cost the state to send the plane up there with shooters to track and kill the wolves?

Might have been helpful to have included the F&Gs rationale for the kill so that folks could have the full story before jumping to conclusions. Oh and it might be good to note in the story that Sarah Palin is no longer Governor of Alaska to some that may be up on the news.

Haven't we seen similar stories in the Traveler of Alaska's Fish & Game managing wolves in questionable (and what strikes me as horrific) ways?

How is this possible. Alaska apparently "pretends" to pride itself on being the last frontier. This sounds like a Fish and Game Department that's out of control or a legislature that's become citified. How sad!

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