The department had planned aerial wolf control in November for Allakaket and Alatna, two villages about 200 miles northwest of Fairbanks where residents report that predators are killing too many moose. The date now has been pushed to mid-to-late February.
State wildlife biologists were planning to shoot as many as 50 wolves from helicopters in a 1,360-square-mile area around the villages on the upper Koyukuk River, according to Monday's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner ( http://is.gd/AfuqtC).
"Conditions are not ideal for tracking; the light is fading every day; and the legal issues we're dealing with still haven't been resolved," said Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms.
The Alaska Board of Game approved the move to eradicate wolves in game management unit 24B in March. The program is intended to leave more moose for food for humans by improving the survival rates of calf and yearling moose, Harms said.
The plan called for department staff to eliminate all the wolves in the area this year and shoot any new wolves that move into the area for four consecutive years after that.
"Department staff would be aiming to take 35 to 50 wolves in the first year and probably 15 to 20 every year after that," Harms said. "We hope to have the whole program finished by 2017."
The department estimates there are 25 to 50 wolves in the area, which is home to approximately 400 moose. The control area represents about 10 percent of Unit 24B and the area is accessible for hunters in the two villages.
ADF&G studies have shown that bears, not wolves, are responsible for the highest mortality of moose calves in the area. But local residents specifically asked the department to focus on wolves rather than bears because bears represent a commonly used alternative food source.