Game Board to Review Local Wolf Proposals

Elizabeth Bluemink / Juneau Empire / August 10, 2004

The Alaska Board of Game has received about 60 proposals for new hunting rules - from controversial wolf trapping in Juneau to goat hunting in Haines.

The proposals are now under review by Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials and will be available for public viewing Aug. 19 or 20, said Jim Marcotte, acting executive director for the board.

The Board of Game will deliberate on the proposals at its Nov. 2-5 biennial meeting in Juneau. Any potential revisions the board makes to current hunting rules would be published in the annual hunting regulations handbook.

Most of the proposals relate to Southeast Alaska hunting regulations, but a few of them have statewide implications, such as one involving changes to the Tier 2 scoring formula used for hunters throughout Alaska, Marcotte said.

One of the most controversial local issues facing the board is its 2002 de facto ban on wolf trapping on Douglas Island.

Marcotte confirmed the board has received several proposals related to the 2002 ban, which restricts trapping until the wolf population on Douglas Island increases to seven or more wolves or the deer population plummets by 35 percent.

The ban was enacted following local outcry among wildlife advocates that seven Douglas Island wolves were killed by a single trapper in 2001.

But the ban prompted concerns from hunters who worry that wolves could harm the island's deer population.

One inherent problem with the 2002 rule is that the Department of Fish and Game has no intention of monitoring the size of Douglas Island's wolf population. "It's nearly impossible," said Neil Barten, a Juneau-based game biologist, explaining that in Southeast Alaska's heavy forest and variable snow conditions it is very difficult to track wolves.

The board's wolf rule "didn't really satisfy anybody," said Karen Hansen, chair of the Juneau-Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Committee, which initiated a Juneau wolf subcommittee to deliberate on a local solution to the controversy. "If you are going to compromise with the hunters, then you need something workable," Hansen said.

The advisory committee will ask the game board to review the wolf management plan, Hansen said.

"The community is very split on this issue," explained Jenny Pursell, a member of the wolf subcommittee who is also a founding member of the Voices for Douglas Island Wildlife.

The seven-member wolf subcommittee, charged with reviewing the board's 2002 decision, did not submit its own proposal but will review the 2004 proposals before the board meeting, Pursell said.

In the Interior as well as Southeast Alaska, "the hot issue is wolf control," Marcotte said, explaining that hunters favor wolf population control in the Upper Tanana Management Area near Tok - including aerial shooting - but others are strongly opposed.

The board discussed the Upper Tanana proposal at its March meeting in Fairbanks but plans to take it up again at the November meeting in Juneau.

The proposals will be published on the department's Web site as early as next week and in a booklet before the November meeting.


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