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Peninsula wolf management strategy presented, targeted killing considered

Posted: March 19, 2013 - 9:06pm  |  Updated: March 20, 2013 - 8:25am

Wolves in game management unit 15A may soon be targeted for killing in an effort to bolster its low moose population.

“The bottom line: we need to arrest the declining (moose population) in this area,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division Director.

At Tuesday’s Alaska Board of Game meeting in Kenai, Vincent-Lang said Fish and Game is ready to consider intensive management strategies in the limited non-federally-managed portions of unit 15A. Following a recent wolf census in the two intensive management units, 15A and 15C, he said the department now has the data to support targeted wolf killing.

And with the board’s passage of proposal 147A, it may soon become a reality. Board Chairman Ted Spraker said the spring is the best time to implement aerial wolf control.

The amended proposal, which passed against a single objection from Board Member Nick Yurko, authorizes Fish and Game to issue public permits or allow state agents or department employees to shoot wolves from helicopters or from the ground in intensive management units 15A and 15C.

The proposal also allows for wolf hunting and trapping in the two units and for Fish and Game to contract wolf trappers or use department employees.

Many area residents told the board they supported targeted wolf killing to improve the declining moose population.

The board also passed amended proposal 160A, opening a no-limit, Oct. 15 to March 31 trapping season for wolf in units 7 and 15.

The Central Peninsula and Kenai and Soldotna Advisory Committee supported the proposal; the Homer Advisory Committee did not.

Vincent-Lang said 15A has long been below its intensive management objectives — the minimum allowable moose population before the department intervenes — and without large-scale habitat improvements, there is no indication the moose population will rise.

While targeted wolf killing could help 15A’s moose populations, Board Chairman Ted Spraker said hopefully Fish and Game will not have to implement the intensive management strategy.

“Here’s how this plays out,” Spraker said. “If we can increase hunting or trapping of wolves, for instance, then we don’t have to go to more extreme measures of aerial shooting of wolves. We’d much rather see wolves temporarily reduced for the benefit of moose by standard methods and means, trapping and ground shooting by the public.”

Spraker said it increases hunting opportunity for the public and would save Fish and Game the high cost of putting helicopters in the air.

Already, Fish and Game has been working in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transportation to reduce the number of moose killed on the road system, and it is continuing to improve moose habitat in 15A’s small portion of non-federally managed land, Vincent-Lang said.

Also the department is able to support the dwindling moose population by trapping wolves and increasing hunting opportunity for brown bear, a major predator of moose calves, he said.

While proposal 147A also authorizes intensive management strategies in 15C, Vincent-Lang said Fish and Game is not ready to consider targeted wolf killing in that area. That area is within its intensive management objective, and increased wolf trapping may help moderate the predator population, he said.

If Fish and Game were to implement targeted wolf killing in 15A’s non-federally-managed land, Vincent-Lang said he does not know how effective the effort would be.

But, he said, the department will not know until it tries.

 

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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