The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will gun wolves from helicopters in game management unit 15A on the Kenai Peninsula, department officials said. Unit 15A covers the Sterling Highway north to the Peninsula’s edge.
Fish and Game will implement the intensive management actions between November and March. The department has no firm date yet, said Jason Herreman, Fish and Game assistant area biologist for the Peninsula.
The actions also includes increasing department wolf-trapping efforts, Herreman said. Fish and Game will hire a part-time employee to focus trapping efforts, he said.
By killing predators, Fish and Game hopes to boost unit 15A’s declining moose population, Herreman said. But that will not happen, he said.
“The important part to get out here is that predator control is not going to increase moose populations in (unit) 15A,” Herreman said.
Unit 15A supplies moose with little sources of food in the winter, he said. The birch stands are too mature, and their shoots, the staple to a moose’s diet, are out of their reach, he said.
Unit 15A’s habitat cannot feed any more moose, he said.
With less wolves, Fish and Game will need to liberalize the moose hunt in unit 15A to match moose to their available browse, he said. Otherwise, the moose would starve, he said.
Last winter Fish and Game counted 69 moose deaths along roadways in unit 15A, he said. Many died malnourished. Unit 15B lost 36 moose, and unit 15C lost 28 moose, he said.
Fish and Game is limited to 83-square-miles of state land in unit 15A, said Doug Vincent-Lang, Fish and Game division director. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge manages a majority of unit 15A land.
Aerial wolf control is also extremely expensive, Herreman said.
“This is not necessarily the most efficient use of our resources,” Herreman said.
A study midway through the trapping season in February estimated 45 to 50 wolves in unit 15A, Herreman said. Fish and Game’s minimum allowable wolf population is 15 wolves, Vincent-Lang said.
The last moose census in unit 15A, conducted in spring 2008, counted 1,825 to 2,352 moose.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.