Environment

Alaska Decides It's Fine to Kill Endangered Wolves

Decimated by years of unsustainable logging, endangered wolves on Prince of Wales Island now face the being shot by hunters.

Photo Credit: Vibe Images/Shutterstock.com

The state of Alaska has announced that it plans to allow a wolf hunt on Prince of Wales Island, despite recent evidence that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population on the island is in danger of extinction. In July, environmental groups asked the state to close the hunting and trapping season in response to a June report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game showing alarmingly low levels of wolves the island. Instead of canceling the hunt, the state is allowing the harvest of nine wolves.

“Alexander Archipelago wolves on Prince of Wales have been pushed to their limit and we must stop hunting them,” said Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner in Sitka. “Opening the season is the opposite of letting this population recover, let alone sustaining it. Today’s action could lead to its demise.”

According to the state, the newly announced quota of nine wolves is 20 percent of the pre-2014/2015 season population estimate of 89 wolves “plus a reduction for any other human-caused mortality that may occur.” The quota does not account for the 29 wolves reported killed last year, a demonstrated high level of poaching, or the fact that females make up only 25 percent of the dwindling population. Even if they can reproduce at their reduced numbers, the risk of inbreeding is high.

“Wolves on Prince of Wales have been hammered by old-growth logging that has destroyed huge swaths of their habitat and created an ever-growing road system that allows more and more hunter access to the wolves,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thanks to decades of unsustainable logging, Alexander Archipelago wolves are on the precipice, and the state of Alaska is about to kick them over the edge.”

Alexander Archipelago wolves are a subspecies of gray wolves that dens in the roots of old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 found that protecting Alexander Archipelago wolves under the Endangered Species Act “may be warranted.” The Service will decide whether to list the wolves under the Act by the end of this year.

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