October 29, 2020 last updated November 9, 2020
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s estimate of the wolf population survey last year is 316. This number does not factor in the 165 wolves reported taken last winter — more than half the island’s population estimate.
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Under the latest proposal, rural residents eligible for federal subsistence will be able to hunt wolves from Oct. 31 until the end of November. The state’s hunt for non-rural residents originally was not going to open, however, the state has recently agreed to open a 5 day hunting period (5 wolf bag limit). This is in addition to the federal hunt. Trappers were going to be limited from Nov. 15 to Nov. 30 under both state and federal seasons, however, on November 6th, state and federal authorities announced they would extend the trapping season by five days for a full three-week “opportunity,” therefore the trapping season now ends on December 5th.
And it looks like there will be no limit (federal subsistence): a 30 day open season for hunters, and a now 3 week season for trappers. Add to that the recently added state hunt of five days, but with a limit of five wolves.
The goal of this nightmare is a harvest that will maintain the wolf population within a sustainable fall population objective range of 150-200 wolves as established by the Alaska Board of Game and the Forest Service.
The reported fall 2019 harvest of 165 wolves from a population estimated at 316 wolves results in a harvest rate of just about 50% (The agency considers a 30% harvest to be the “maximum sustainable harvest rate for a productive wolf population”).
If these numbers are indeed accurate, (and though the survey was taken prior to pup season, it also does not account for wolves killed illegally, often a substantial number, nor wolves killed in vehicle collisions, nor animals that died from illnesses) this would mean that presently there are approximately 151 rare Alexander Archipelago wolves left on Prince of Wales and adjacent islands, meaning that the slaughter of just several wolves will bring the population level to below a “sustainable objective population range,” which means that as far as the eye can see, the hunting and trapping seasons should remain closed.
A lawsuit filed early Monday, October 26th, asked a state judge to intervene, asking the court to block the state trapping season from reopening in mid-November. It was filed on behalf of the Anchorage-based Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Joel Bennett, a former member of the Board of Game who lives in Juneau. Unfortunately, on November 9, 2020 Juneau Superior Court Judge Daniel Schally rejected filings for an injunction that would block the now three-week trapping season that opens on November 15.
Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service will answer questions and take public testimony by telephone tonight. The public meeting begins at 6 p.m., with an hour-long public hearing following at 7 p.m. Alaska time.
Anyone interesting in listening in on or participating in tonight’s 6 p.m. telephonic meeting can call toll free 1-888-566-1030 and enter passcode 3344290 when prompted.