Design&Trend: Alaska Wolves Population Spiraling

Alaska Wolves Population Spiraling, Yukon Preserve Howling Down Over Half

From Design&Trend April 13th, 2013, by Michael Briggs

The population of wolves in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve is down over a half, thanks to Alaska’s predator control program.

According to the National Park service, there are only around 28 to 39 wolves left in six packs. In November 2012, there were 80 wolves in nine packs—marking the highest drop in population since the park service began tracking wolves 19 years ago, according to Deb Cooper, Associate Regional Director for NPS. 

“This year there has been predator control efforts along the boundary of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, particularly in the 70-mile country which is kind of bounded on three sides by the preserve. The predator control program has taken quite a few animals. We know a number of them are from packs that are previously monitored,” Cooper said.

While other factors also account for the loss, including natural deaths and subsistence, those rates are fairly consistent yearly.

“As long as there is a breeding pair or some sort part of the pack structure intact, they can come back. This year, we know that we lost one pack that was 24 animals in size. There was two other packs that we think there’s only one animal left which is really no longer a pack, just a transient animal. When you lose whole packs that can have more of a long term effect.”  

Other than missing out on a little less howling, losing the wolves means trouble in keeping the caribou herd in the 40-mile boundaries at acceptable levels.

“The herd is beginning to show signs of nutritional stress. So the ramifications that has to a national preserve is there’s some deterioration of the habitat like over-grazing or where there’s so many caribou they begin to not have enough to eat,” Cooper says.

“We’ve had no formal communication from the State of Alaska on results of their helicopter and fixed wing predator control work in the Forty mile country,” said Yukon-Charley Rivers Superintendent Greg Dudgeon in a press release.