Moose numbers near McGrath, where a state-sponsored
aerial wolf-kill program is under way, have increased slightly
in the past two years, a state agency said Monday.
increase, however, is so small as to be statistically meaningless,
a Department of Fish and Game biologist said.
biologists last November counted 580 moose in the experimental
study area near McGrath, up from 531 in 2001.
difference is small and not statistically significant,"
biologist Mark Keech said in a news release.
a village of about 400 people about 220 miles northwest of
Anchorage, is one of two areas in Alaska where the state has
approved aerial wolf-kill programs to boost the moose population.
The other program is in the Nelchina basin area, about 100
miles northeast of Anchorage.
both areas, residents have long complained that bears and
wolves are eating too many moose, leaving them with too few
and Game surveyed about half of the 87 sample units in the
study area. It was not able to survey enough of the units
in the larger 19D East game management unit to know what is
happening with moose there, Keech said. The data that were
collected, however, showed fewer moose in the larger area
than in 2001.
a result, making inferences about that population is difficult,
and we are not alarmed by the apparent decline," Keech
said that the ratio of calves to cows is significantly higher
in the study area and that supports previous data showing
an increase in calf survival.
biologist Gordon Haber said the data are suspect. He said
the agency reached its population objective for the game unit
and went forward with bear and wolf control anyway near McGrath.
can drive gaping holes through the data they have now,"
and Game previously credited the relocation of dozens of black
and brown bears from the McGrath area last spring with increasing
the summer survival rate of moose calves.
next phase of the program called for removing 40 wolves from
the McGrath area this winter. Three hunter-and-pilot teams
have permits to kill the wolves, but weather so far has prevented
any wolves from being killed near McGrath. Two more teams
have been authorized and the state is still taking applications,
of Monday, more than 60 wolves had been killed in the Nelchina
basin area near Glennallen. The state's goal is 140 wolves.
of Game chairman Mike Fleagle said the slight increase in
moose in the McGrath study area probably is due to bear relocation
because aerial wolf control has yet to have an impact.
don't have the results we want yet," Fleagle said. "The
moose numbers are still way down."
board is considering doubling the moose population objective
for game unit 19D East to between 6,000 and 8,000, Fleagle
move would not necessarily mean that aerial wolf control would
have to be expanded if the McGrath study area operates well
as a moose nursery, Fleagle said.
Vic Van Ballenberghe, who served for 3 1/2 years on the Game
Board under two governors, said increasing the moose population
objective for the game unit is a serious mistake.
think it is disingenuous for a board member to say we are
not going to increase the area over which wolves are shot.
Of course it would," he said. "It locks you into
wolf control forever."
Alaska Wildlife Alliance launched its own protest Monday in
response to the aerial wolf-kill programs. The group has bought
20 hours of flying time from a charter plane company to fly
a banner that says, "Alaskans said no to aerial wolf
killing," referring to voter initiatives in 1996 and
is our aerial protest," said wildlife director Paul Joslin.