Alaska Predator Control Program Kills 4 Collared Wolves
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service have reviewed the circumstances that resulted in the killing of NPS collared wolves as part of a state predator control program and found no intent by either agency to mislead the other or violate protocol.
A meeting attended by representatives of both agencies took place March 31st in Anchorage to review details of the incident. Both agencies pledged to work closely together to avoid similar incidents in the future.
The Webber Creek pack of four wolves was killed on March 17 2.5 miles outside of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve northeast of Fairbanks. Two of the wolves recently had been collared by the NPS as part of a research program.
While Fish and Game is not under any legal obligation to avoid wolves collared by other agencies when conducting predator control programs on state land, ADF&G managers had committed not to take radio-collared wolves that were part of current NPS monitoring studies.
"We appreciate the Department of Fish and Game trying to avoid those animals," said NPS Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica.
"Our department had a protocol in place to avoid this situation, but unfortunately, in this case, it didn't work," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd.
The NPS had provided Fish and Game a list of frequencies of all wolves collared by the preserve staff and telemetry equipment to identify those wolves. Due to a series of misunderstandings, the Webber Creek pack frequencies were not in the hands of the Fish and Game team conducting the control program. The team, after noticing the collars, attempted on several occasions to hear signals from the collared wolves, and concluded that the collars were inactive. Fish and Game had committed to avoid only collars that were part of an active research program.
"Rumors of Park Service providing incomplete frequency lists or non-functioning equipment are not true," Lloyd said. Likewise, "there was no indication of improper actions or intent on the part of the staff of either agency," Masica said.
On at least two other occasions, Fish and Game staff avoided NPS collared wolves outside the preserve based on NPS-provided information.
Both agencies are reviewing a list of recommendations made March 31st by Fish and Game officials that will allow a more complete understanding of each other's operations and the development of improved field protocols relating to predator control.
The state's Upper Yukon-Tanana Predator Control Program is currently suspended due to a lack of fresh snow. If conditions allow, the state could continue the program until it is suspended for the year on April 30. Fish and Game staff reconfirmed its commitment to avoid taking NPS collared wolves. The state has a goal of allowing up to 70 more wolves to be taken to reduce predation on the Fortymile Caribou Herd and moose in the eastern Interior. Predator control is not allowed within the 2.5 million acre Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.