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

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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.

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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. 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?





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