Thursday, October 6, 2011

Editorial: Alaska Wolves on the Peninsula

Are wolves a problem on the Peninsula?

The Alaska Board of Game has directed fish and game biologists to prepare a management plan that calculates a program of aerial killing. The assumption is that if wolf numbers are decreased, then moose numbers increase.
Yet, biologists from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have seen that over time, moose habitat has altered to the point that it doesn’t sustain a large population as it might have in the past. Though it was designated the Kenai National Moose Range in 1941 by President Roosevelt, the human population has grown considerably to overtake moose browse areas. That’s just one reason. Large fires typically give way to new willow and plants ideal for moose consumption, but the Peninsula hasn’t had many of those either.
The last caribou on the Kenai was killed circa 1915. Wolves were exterminated shortly thereafter through an extensive poisoning and shooting campaign around the same time. Wolves didn’t come back to the Peninsula until the 1960s, with numbers now estimated to be fewer than 100.
Certain lifelong residents say they’ve never spotted a wolf in their lifetime on any stretch of this Peninsula. Wolf stories in general are rare, and for good reason. Wolves are rare on the Kenai Peninsula.
The question to be asked of the BOG is whether such a program of exterminating wolves again is truly necessary. We can hope for sound management of fish and game based on science, but it’s best to not rest too comfortably on hope. A short window of time to weigh in on the matter opens in a few days.
Let’s keep this controversial predator control program off the Peninsula.