Alaska DFG Conducts Predator Control Operations

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Fresh snow on Sunday and Monday allowed ADF&G staff to begin wolf predator control from helicopters in eastern Alaska beginning March 16th.

The Upper Yukon-Tanana Predator Control program is designed to allow the Fortymile Caribou herd and moose populations to increase. The program has primarily relied on trapping and hunting harvest and on volunteers who have obtained permits to take wolves with the use of fixed wing aircraft. Poor snow conditions this winter limited the volunteer teams again this year.

"We've seen a remarkable donation of time, aircraft use and aviation fuel toward these wildlife management programs, and in several areas they've allowed us to meet program objectives." said David James, Regional Supervisor for the Division of Wildlife Conservation. "We used ADF&G staff last year in the Upper Yukon-Tanana program to make progress toward our objectives, and we'll try to do so again this year."

Although regulations allow Department staff to use helicopters in predator control programs, ADF&G has no plans at this time to do so in other intensive management areas in Interior Alaska.

The ADF&G effort will begin on or near the Fortymile herd's calving grounds and extend outward to other areas of their annual range. Wolves will be tracked and spotted from ADF&G chartered airplanes, and ADF&G staff will be called in to shoot wolves using a helicopter.

Wolf remains will be retrieved, specimens will be collected, and pelts will be auctioned to the public at a later date. Specimens will be collected for a variety of wildlife parasite and disease research. Samples will be studied as part of routine surveillance of disease exposure as well as specific studies relating to parasites, skin ailments and genetics.

The Fortymile calving grounds are adjacent to Yukon-Charlie National Preserve, where department and volunteer wolf control efforts are not permitted. ADF&G established a protocol that will protect radiocollared wolves in National Park Service (NPS) study packs and minimize the take of uncollared wolves in those packs.

The current Upper Yukon-Tanana Control Program was implemented in January 2005. The program requires that a population of at least 88-103 wolves be maintained in the control area. Based on recent wolf population estimates, approximately 185 wolves would need to be removed through hunting, trapping, and control efforts to reach the population objective this year.

Although the volunteer wolf control permits are still valid, volunteers will not be allowed to work in the same area at the same time as the ADF&G project for safety reasons. They may be allowed to continue efforts in other parts of the control unit. Volunteers have been notified of the Department's plans.

ADF&G actions will be suspended for the year when wolf population objectives are met, or snow and weather conditions deteriorate, or on April 30.