Our current fiscal crises will require a “no stone unturned” approach in meeting the challenge we face. Ripe for elimination is the “Intensive Management” (IM) program where the state Department of Fish and Game spends millions to kill wolves and bears trying to increase moose and caribou for hunters. Department reports to the Board of Game reveal outlandish expenditures. For example: during 2012-15, a total of $621,900 was spent to kill 49 wolves ($12,692/wolf) in the upper Koyukuk area; on the North Slope, a total of $349,900 was recently spent to kill seven brown bears at $49,986/bear. There are many similar examples. Statewide IM costs and related research during 2012-15 totaled $5,273,500. And this is an incomplete figure that does not include other administrative costs that are not reported, or the huge amount spent for predator-control research in the McGrath area over the past 15 years.
Predator control has a long and controversial history in Alaska. Over the years a few things have been learned that should be heeded. One is that in most of Alaska and adjacent northern Canada, moose populations that are subject to natural predation often exist at relatively low densities. This is normal. It has also been learned that control programs that remove a large proportion of wolves from an area can sometimes help prey populations increase. Predator control doesn’t always result in higher game populations; other factors such as snow conditions can prevent gains. It is clear, however, when control efforts stop, wolves often repopulate quite rapidly, and prey numbers again drop to natural levels.