Learn the True Facts of Wolf Control

COMPASS: Points of view from the community

Kevin Duffy / Anchorage Daily News / March 20, 2004

Confusion and misinformation surrounding Alaska's two current predator control programs for wolves is being distributed throughout many forums both inside and outside of Alaska. Please allow me to set the record straight and provide the facts about wolf management in Alaska.

* Alaska supports a healthy statewide population of 7,700 to 11,200 wolves. Unlike any other state, Alaska retains a natural array of large predators.

* In Alaska, wolves are managed on a sustained yield basis across 95 percent of the state and are fully protected from hunting and trapping in many large areas such as national parks.

* The predator control programs are currently taking place only on about 3 percent of the state's land area, not over large tracts of land.
* Many people living in Alaska, especially in rural Alaska, are dependent on moose for food. For instance, in McGrath, hamburger costs more than $5 per pound at the local store, and the closest supermarket is 220 air miles away. The moose population has fallen so low that the harvest level is about half of what it once was, leaving families in great need.

* Hunters from outside the state have been banned from these two areas in order to provide the very limited moose harvest still possible to Alaskans for food. Moose hunting seasons in the areas where wolf control is occurring are either closed or limited to subsistence use only.

* Moose populations in these two areas have been reduced to very low levels and, without predator control, are unlikely to increase to where they can support the demand for meat.

* The control program does not seek to "eliminate wolves"; the goal is to reduce wolf predation in certain areas in order to allow moose populations to grow and stabilize at a higher level -- supporting both human harvest and a combination of wolves, bears and other predators.

Predator control programs should not be thought of as or confused with fair chase sport hunting opportunities. These programs are designed to humanely and effectively reduce wolf populations as quickly as possible. They are not conducted routinely and take place only in areas where improved moose harvest is a high priority. Under these programs, the state strictly limits the number of permits it issues to qualified applicants to act as agents of the state. These programs occur for a limited time and are closely and continually monitored.

It is a fact that in Alaska there is a large, healthy population of wolves distributed across our state. The reason we have such high numbers of wolves and other predators is because our habitats and ecosystems are carefully managed and our wildlife management programs ensure the long-term viability of all wildlife species, including wolves.

Don't be misled by those who are intolerant of differing wildlife uses and values, and who continue to resort to allegation, out-of-context comments and untruths to try to win others to their side.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Game apply different management programs in different areas to provide for a variety of human interests and uses of our wildlife resources. We will continue to manage our wildlife responsibly in order to provide for a broad range of values. For those interested in understanding the full and true story, I invite you to contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Kevin Duffy is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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