Alaska Fish and Game Halts Interior Aerial Wolf-Reduction Program
FAIRBANKS — With no more wolves in sight, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has halted an aerial wolf-reduction program around two villages on the upper Koyukuk River.
Department spokeswoman Cathie Harms said state wildlife biologists in a helicopter shot and killed 17 wolves in four days around the villages of Allakaket and Alatna, but there are no more wolves in the area the department was focusing its efforts.
“There are no other wolves in the area at the moment, so there’s not a lot of reason to hang around,” Harms said.
The department was projecting a harvest of 35 to 50 wolves in what is the first year of a five-year predator control program aimed at increasing the survival of moose in the area for the 180 residents who live in the two Native villages and rely on moose for their meat supply.
The wolf-killing campaign, which was conducted in a 1,360-square-mile portion of game management unit 24, was approved by the state Board of Game a year ago. The department estimated there were as many as 50 wolves in the area but found less than half that amount.
“We’ve killed 17 wolves, and we don’t expect a lot more in the future,” Harms said.
The department could return this spring if more wolves move into the area, but it’s unlikely, she said.
The department’s goal was to eliminate all wolves in the area for the next five years to help increase moose survival. The moose population in the area has declined from about 2,000 in the early 1990s to about 400 now, according to biologists.
The department has put radio-tracking collars on nearly 100 yearling and calf moose in the past year to track survival rates during the program, Harms said.
It is the second predator control program in the Interior that has employed helicopters to shoot and kill wolves.
The other, in the upper Yukon and Tanana valley near Tok, has been going on since 2009. Biologists in helicopters have killed 155 wolves in that area in the past four years in an attempt to bolster the Fortymile Caribou Herd.
Biologists could take to the air in that region in the next week to search for and kill wolves, depending on the conditions, Harms said.