FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Three wolves sterilized as part of the state's only wolf control program were recently killed by other wolves, bringing to at least six the number of sterilized wolves to die since the Fortymile wolf control plan started in 1998.
Two years ago, two sterilized wolves were caught in traps and another was killed by other wolves. As they did when those sterilized wolves were killed, state wildlife biologists find other wolves to replace the lost ones and sterilize them, said state Fish and Game biologist Rod Boertje.
Boertje found the dead wolves -- two females and one male -- last month during a routine aerial check when their radio collars emitted a mortality signal.
''They were definitely in fights,'' Boertje told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''They were bitten multiple times in multiple places.
''It was probably a territorial fight. It was right on the border of the two (wolf pack) territories.''
Infighting is the primary cause of wolf mortality in populations that aren't heavily hunted or trapped, said biologist Mark McNay, a furbearer specialist.
The sterilization program is part of the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan approved four years ago to boost the size of the herd by cutting predation on newborn calves.
Since the plan began, the herd has increased from 23,000 animals to 35,000, although biologists attribute the increase as much to milder weather as to the wolf control program.
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