Wolf Control Plans Could Ultimately Lead to an Increase in Calf Hunts

Letters to the Editor / Anchorage Daily News / April 16, 2004

I am a moose biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and former vice chair of the Board of Game. Mike Fleagle stated that Defenders of Wildlife misled us about moose calf hunting and predator management. There is no aerial wolf shooting in the moose calf hunt area on the Tanana Flats, but there is a wolf control plan (begun in 1996, renewed March 2004, expires July 2009). It allows chasing and hunting of wolves from snowmachines. Hunters may take five wolves; trappers have no limit. Humans are the No. 1 cause of wolf mortality.

The plan is to increase survival of Delta Caribou Herd calves and double herd size. Nonetheless, the herd has continued to decline or remain stable. Previous wolf control created a historic high population in the 1980s that resulted in overgrazed habitat. It may not recover for many years.

Unfortunately, the plan may have caused an overabundance of moose and serious destruction of moose habitat, necessitating calf hunts. Negative ecosystem impacts by humans, including fire suppression, likely inextricably link predator control to moose calf hunts. If we remove wolves and bears we must continually monitor moose condition and/or habitat and establish hunting seasons that mimic natural predation. With a large proportion of state lands granted predator control, and with legalized aerial wolf hunting in predator control areas, we will likely see a substantial increase in moose calf hunts statewide.

-- Julie Maier / Fairbanks

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