Within the 2.5 million acres of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in central Alaska, wolves and other majestic animals are protected. But animals like wolves do not respect lines drawn on a map. And a recent study suggests that efforts to limit populations of these predators outside those borders is having negative effects on wolves living within the preserve.
The study, published in June in Wildlife Monographs, suggests that when the Alaskan authorities were limiting wolf populations outside the Yukon-Charley preserve, survival rates of wolves within the preserve were lower than usual. The findings highlight the notion that managing wildlife within human-imposed boundaries requires communication and cooperation with the authorities beyond a preserve’s boundaries, and could have implications for wildlife management programs elsewhere.
“In 1994, Alaska’s Legislature passed the Intensive Management Law intended to increase populations of moose, caribou and deer and thereby provide increased harvests for hunters. Hunting organizations supported the bill that paved the way for large-scale predator control programs. The prevailing model crafted at the time by Department of Fish and Game biologists predicted that in nearly all cases, reducing wolves and bears would increase moose and caribou numbers and would ultimately benefit hunters. The Board of Game eagerly adopted this model and vigorously applied it after 2002 across a broad area of the state. Thousands of wolves and bears were killed as part of intensive management programs featuring controversial, extreme methods including public aerial shooting of wolves, gassing of wolf pups in dens, trapping bears and shooting bears from helicopters.
From the beginning, some biologists warned that managing wildlife was far more complex than simply reducing predators. We knew that predation sometimes limited prey numbers, but other factors often overshadowed predation. These included food quantity and quality, severe winters, dry summers and hunting. We stressed the importance of conducting field studies before implementing predator control, during control to monitor progress and after control to evaluate effectiveness. But some of the approved control programs lacked the necessary studies and information to justify, implement, monitor and evaluate predator reductions…
…My own analysis of statewide moose harvests before and after aggressive, intensive management showed no significant increase in harvests as a result of reducing predators. Intensive management didn’t result in larger moose harvests despite an increase of about 5,000 hunters per year on average during aggressive management programs.”
“The state Legislature opened a new front this week in a long-running war between supporters and opponents of wolf trapping near Denali National Park and Preserve — with sportsman’s advocates on one side and proponents of tourism and conservation on the other.
In one of its last actions of the regular legislative session, the Alaska House voted 22-18 on Wednesday to pass a bill that protects wolves from trappers in two areas adjoining the park — a move aimed at giving visitors more chances to see the animals, though it’s opposed by the state Board of Game. It also faces long odds in the Senate…
…House Bill 105 would create a 530-square-mile buffer zone northeast of the park where wolf hunting and certain traps and snares are banned.”
“…As we whittle away at what little is left of our wildlands, the value of outdoor experience only grows. Last year National Park visitorship in the United States set records, and as 2016 is the 100th anniversary of what Wallace Stegner called the United States’ “best idea,” it’s important to consider that as our society becomes more urbanized more people seek out experiences in wild places. For Denali alone, and the surrounding communities, 530,000 visitors spent $5.24 million in the park and surrounding towns, supporting almost 7,000 jobs. In contrast, only a handful of trappers are known to operate in what used to be the buffer zone, garnering a minimal income where the average value of a wolf pelt in Alaska is a meager $215…”
[The Compass article below, written by AWA Advisory Board member Vic Van Ballenberghe, is in response to a previous article by John Schandelmeier, posted previously. Both articles were originally published in the opinion section of the Anchorage Daily News.]
As I read John Schandelmeier’s recent column (“In predator control, questions of ethics and efficacy,” April 16) I found myself agreeing with most of its content until I came to the end. There I found the statement that “Alaska has some of the most sensible predator control laws in the United States.” Sensible for their efficacy? Sensible biologically? Sensible in terms of ethics? In my view, none of our predator control programs qualify as sensible based on these criteria.
Schandelmeier correctly stated that liberalizing wolf and bear hunting and trapping seasons, bag limits and methods of taking these species is a big part of recent predator control. Beginning about 10 years ago, the Board of Game not only implemented aerial shooting of wolves over large areas but also extended wolf hunting seasons into late summer and spring, when hides are of low quality and pups are still dependent on adults or are unborn. Is this ethical? Is it sensible biologically? I know of no evidence that this measure increased prey populations significantly…