Our Southeast Alaska correspondent Jeff Lund penned a really compelling and sensible report that will run in our January issue. He and others hunt and trap wolves, which, particuarly on Lund’s native Prince of Wales Island, are in healthy numbers and understandably as predators prefer a meal of local deer on the island. Anyway, Lund’s story will be a good read when our issue comes out next month.
Large swaths of trees have been logged here since the 1960s. It’s left poor habitat for deer and the other wildlife. Without a canopy of old growth, snow can easily fall to the ground — obscuring important feeding spots.
Douville serves on the regional advisory council that makes recommendations to the federal subsistence board and the state.
He says finding fewer deer on the island is affecting people’s livelihood.
“This is rural Alaska. It’s bush Alaska,” Douville says. “We don’t like to buy meat. It’s eight or nine bucks a pound.”
Still, he says logging is just one factor. The other is a rapidly growing wolf population. The wolves are devouring the deer.
“If you’re going to harvest deer, you have to harvest wolves,” Douville says.
But not everyone agrees killing wolves is a good idea.
In 2011, conservation groups petitioned the feds to protect the Alexander Archipelago wolf under the Endangered Species Act. Around that time, it was estimated there were about 89 wolves living in the unit — less than half of what was there 20 years before. But the wolves didn’t wind up receiving additional federal protections.
Instead, there have been joint-efforts with the state to stabilize the population, and the numbers of wolves has been increasing. Estimates from 2016 suggest there are 231 wolves in the unit.
Still, it’s not easy getting a handle on how many wolves there are.
The whole piece is interesting reading. It’s clear that wolves and deer sharing the same ecosystem are perfectly matched in the predator-prey hieracrchy, so keeping the populations of both speces managed would be prudent.