Sunday, May 19, 2013
Moose Shortage on the Kenai Peninsula; Habitat or Predatory Related?
Aerial wolf control on the Kenai Peninsula: a controversial solution to low moose populations is just one of the proposals that has state biologists and environmental and animal conservation groups on opposite ends.
If you’ve visited the Kenai Peninsula lately, you may not have seen as many moose as usual.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the bull-to-cow ratio is currently below department standards, and moose populations on some parts of the peninsula have been low for nearly a decade.
State biologists said it’s a shortage partially caused by poor habitat.
"There simply isn't enough food to support the moose to take us within objective levels,” said Mark Burch, ADF&G regional supervisor.
But there’s another explanation as well. Because of an increase in Kenai Peninsula wolf populations, Burch said the department and the Alaska Board of Game are considering an aerial wolf control program to bring the moose population back up to an acceptable level.
It’s a big decision.
"We certainly take any kind of wolf control or predator control seriously,” Burch said. “We understand that it means killing animals and we never take that lightly."
In previous years, aerial wolf control programs have drawn fire from environmental and animal conservation groups nationwide.
"We think that people living on the Kenai and people that live in Anchorage have a strong interest in this issue,” said Theresa Fiorino, Alaska representative for the Defenders of Wildlife. “Because this is so close to very dense population centers, we think that there should be a lot of interest in this issue."
Fiorino said there’s not necessarily a need for a predator control program and called on state officials to consider other habitat-related solutions.
But Burch said there are two sides to every story.
“Moose hunting and eating moose meat is an essential part of Alaskan culture,” he said. “That's where the board will be faced with that dilemma."
As the board prepares to make a decision during its upcoming November meeting, it’s one that will be watched closely by Alaskans on both sides of the aisle.