Two Lawsuits Challenge State’s Recent Predator Control Action

The fallout from the State of Alaska’s controversial removal of about 100 predators to help control the struggling caribou numbers of the Mulchatna Herd will soon head to court with two lawsuits made public this week. Here’s the Alaska Beacon with some details:

The lawsuits name the state, the Alaska Board of Game and Doug Vincent-Lang, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as defendants. The lawsuits seek to have courts invalidate the Board of Game authorization for the Mulchatna program and to compel more changes to limit predator control.

Ryan Scott, acting director of wildlife conservation for the Department of Fish and Game, declined to comment specifically on the lawsuits. But the department has asserted over the past several months that predation is one of the problems facing the Mulchatna herd, which declined from a peak of about 200,000 animals in the 990s to 12,850 in 2021. The Department of Fish and Game’s goal for the Mulchatna caribou herd is 30,000 to 80,000 animals. …

While factors like habitat changes and the spread of the infectious disease brucellosis are issues for the herd, “predator control is an immediate tool the department can use to attempt to reverse the herds’ decline,” the Department of Fish and Game said in a statement released after this year’s campaign was completed. Residents of 48 communities in that region of Western Alaska depend on the Mulchatna herd for food, the June 6 statement said. “The control program was undertaken in an effort to provide a secure food resource for Alaskans,” it said.

The two lawsuits made counter arguments, saying the killing of bears and wolves does nothing to help the caribou herd because the herd’s problems are from factors other than predation. The lawsuits point to biologists’ information, which had been submitted to the Board of Game, about habitat changes and overgrazing that reduced food availability, very high rates of brucellosis in the population and illegal hunting by people.