Park Service ended a wolf study in Alaska, since so many have been killed

The state culled wolves that had been collared, and it’s no longer feasible to continue research.

 

For more than two decades, the National Park Service monitored the wolf packs in Alaska’s Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Now, so many of the predators have been killed by the state’s Department of Fish and Game that the feds have had to drop the program. It's no longer feasible to conduct research, according to information recently published by the watchdog nonprofit, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The state has been shooting the wolves when they wander outside the boundaries of the federal preserve, to try to increase populations of moose and caribou for human hunters. According to Greg Dudgeon, superintendent of the preserve, since 2005, 90 wolves with ranges in Yukon-Charley have been killed, including 13 radio-collared animals that were essential to the park’s study. Each of the preserve’s nine wolf packs has lost members, and three packs have been entirely eliminated, while another five have been reduced to a single wolf each. The last population count by the National Park Service in 2011 came up with 77 wolves. Since that count, the Park Service wound down its study, officially ending it in 2014.

Jeff Rasic, chief of resources for Yukon-Charley Rivers and Gates of the Arctic National Park, says that federal budget constrictions played a factor in ending the study, but so did the number of collared wolves killed by ADFG and the fact that the state stopped giving the Park Service permits for collaring wolves on state land. “The state was pretty successful in killing wolves,” Rasic adds.

A wolf runs in Denali National Park and Preserve, where wolves are protected. Although they can be killed if they exit the parks boundaries.
Kent Miller/NPS

PEER published a letter on August 8, 2016 about the impacts the state's predator killings had on the feds’ wolf study, bringing these issues back into the public eye.

"The expense of collaring and monitoring wolves for research is not sustainable when ADFG culls the same animals when located outside of the Preserve," Dudgeon wrote in the letter to Richard Steiner of PEER, who had asked him what impacts ADFG has on wolf packs.

In additional correspondence that has been made public by PEER, Bruce Dale of ADFG confirmed that from 2011 to 2015, the department killed 179 wolves through its wolf control program. Dale also confirmed that his department uses 28 radio-collared “Judas” wolves to help them locate and kill other wolves.

Last fall, the National Park Service banned several sports hunting practices within federal preserves in an attempt to protect Alaskan predators like wolves and bears. But recent news of how many wolf packs have been eliminated or severely reduced by Alaska Department of Fish and Game across the state call into question if the federal ban went far enough to protect predators. 

The 1916 Organic Act requires the National Park Service to manage wildlife for healthy populations of all animals, not just the ones that humans hunt for food. In October 2015, the Park Service made a breakthrough with something they had been asking Alaska Board of Game to do for years — exclude harmful practices within preserves like hunting wolves and coyotes with pups, baiting black and brown bears and using artificial lights to rouse hibernating bears out of their dens. The ban took effect this January.

Alaska's Board of Game says that it’s required to curb predators by a 1994 food security law that required managing for abundant ungulate populations. By reducing wolves and bears, the board said, those populations would do better, benefiting Alaskans that rely on the herds for sustenance. The ban was eventually approved within the preserves, but the practices are still allowed outside their borders. This includes directly outside Denali National Park, where in 2010 the Board of Game eliminated a 122-square-mile buffer that protected wolves from hunting and trapping.

The park’s famed East Fork wolf pack, which had 17 members in 2014, disappeared in July 2016, according to state biologists. A number of wolves were known to have been hunted and killed, but it’s not clear what happened to the rest. Three days before Dudgeon wrote about the loss of wolves in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, biologists visited the den. Vegetation had begun to creep back over the entrance, and there were signs that porcupines had taken up residence. No wolves had been there for some time. 

Anna V. Smith is an editorial intern at High Country News. She tweets

Charles Fox
Charles Fox Subscriber
Aug 12, 2016 01:07 PM
Alaska continues to distinguish itself with a merciless war on wildlife so trophy hunters can take selfies of their smug, bloated faces grinning over dead bodies. This is a national disgrace and you can be sure that ideology, not science, is driving up these body counts. The Feds really should do more to protect wildlife and ecosystems that belong to all of us, not just those individuals who want to destroy it.
Rich Jordan
Rich Jordan
Aug 12, 2016 01:54 PM
Proof that less government is not the solution that will benefit the majority.
The Alaska Game Board should be eliminated. No doubt their biologists know what's been done to the wolves is wrong on so many levels - and what the negative results will be - but there's someone at the top level who is clearly stupid. The majority of ranchers and trophy hunters fail miserably at being good stewards and the State backs them up. There's always a penalty when you screw with Mother Nature and you boys and gals have done a "fine" job of it.
Oh, wait! Better run back and kill those porcupines that took over the wolf den! Another species to annihilate.
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 12, 2016 10:01 PM
Nuts. Culling some wolves will not hurt their population in any sense. Keep in mind that many in Alaska rely on wild game for food. Nothing is anniliated. That is a ridiculous statement
Lisa See
Lisa See Subscriber
Aug 13, 2016 03:12 PM
"Nothing is annihilated" (spelling corrected) If that's true, what happened to all the collared wolves and their packs?
Renee DeMartin
Renee DeMartin
Aug 13, 2016 09:52 PM
Alaska has always had a war on predators, a disgusting get-them-any-way-you-can bloodbath. The need to artificially boost ungulate populations for state residents to use as a food source or for trophy hunters is total BS.
There is plenty to go around....humans might just have to work a tad harder.
Rich Jordan
Rich Jordan
Aug 13, 2016 11:11 PM
Harold Johnson denies wolves are being annihilated. He also believes ungulates were put here only for his use. No room for other species according to his way of thinking. The meaning of biodiversity and the importance of predators escapes him. Poor Harold.
Maybe he should read this:
http://m.startribune.com/[…]/
Herbert Curl
Herbert Curl Subscriber
Aug 13, 2016 11:59 PM
You can justify anything you want to do, by referring to greater authority: game regulations, your Mother, scriptures, the voices, the internet, even carelessness and ignorance. The destruction of renewable resources follows from the human ignorance and greed. We're all guilty and none of us are guilty, simply because there are too many of us, compared to the resources necsaary to sustain us. Refer to "The Tragedy of the Commons" for further enlightenment.
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 14, 2016 07:55 AM
How about justifying the work the Alaska Fish and Game does. You know, the people who actually work with game management and have training to do so. What destruction are you talking about? Wolves destroying their food supply and then having to move on? To many of us? Wrong topic. Take that one up on another post and lets just see what you do gooders can do about that. Wolves are managed in Alaska and will continue to be managed.

Rich is so far out of reality there is no sense for a discussion.
Jim Bolen
Jim Bolen
Aug 14, 2016 11:11 PM
Alaska fish and game is like so many state fish and game run their departments to maximize prey animals and don't care about a balanced eco system . right on Harold carry on with your demonizing wolves with your old wive tales about destroying their food supply. I think our eco systems were in lot better shape before man. The romantic notions that you carry on about Alaskans out in the Bush depending on wild game and living off the land has past it's prime . there is just too many people for this nonsense . and the statement there will always be wolves is terribly naive as you look at the lower 48 states where we exterminated the wolves. It is only by a concerted effort by the Feds much to the chagrin of States wildlife department do we once again have wolves in the lower 48 states
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 15, 2016 06:21 AM
You are so out to lunch Jim. We (the people) got rid of the wolves in the lower 48 because they cannot coexist with domestic livestock. We reintroduced nonnative canadian wolves into the lower 48 and they are doing fine. In fact, they are doing so fine that they are destroying wildlife at a rate we have not seen since the days of the buffalo hunters long ago. Keep in mind that more than a few people rely on domestic livestock for a living and wolves take a toll on livestock also. Apparently Jim has read to many story books about how wonderful wolves are and does not like facts. Balance with wolves? What balance? I guess Jim is right. We just take people out of the equation. . That includes native people in Alaska, hard working families that rely on some wild meat for cutting their food bills, and of course all the guides who rely on rich (or somebody who saved for years to hunt in Alaska) to make a living. You obviously must either work for a nonprofit wolf worshipper organization or are dumb enough to give money to them. As far as wolves go, there are tens of thousands of them in Canada, Alaska, and Russia. Use your "google" and look it up. TV land is not reality when it comes to the shows you watch. Ask a few natives what happens when the wolf population is up and moose disappear to the point where few can be harvested to feed their families. This is a big deal to them and decisions concerning wolves should be left to Alaskans, not the federal government.
Herbert Curl
Herbert Curl Subscriber
Aug 15, 2016 08:40 AM
Harold, you seem to have lost touch with reality. Do you have data for this statement: "In fact, they are doing so fine that they are destroying wildlife at a rate we have not seen since the days of the buffalo hunters long ago."? What does "destroying wildlife mean"?

The US population continues to move into large towns and cities. The so-called family farm is dead and agribusiness is heavily subsidized by tax dollars. State game departments raise deer and elk on public lands for a declining number of hunters. The Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife depends almost entirely on hunting and fishing license fees, which are steadily declining. Fishing seasons are being curtailed as a result of over harvest, climate change, and wild fish stocks damaged by dams. Cattle are grazed on public lands for minimal fees which means that cattle raising is subsidized by tax dollars. The movement to privatize public lands is based on large corporations desiring to raise crops, log, mine and drill for hydrocarbons, and turn other land into private hunting reserves.

As a result of of these changes over the past 100 years, there's movement to "rewild" public lands by restoring them with wolves, grizzle bears, wolverines and other predators while reducing the number of ungulates, (with the exception of bison) to provide some natural balance. We're not in the 19th Century anymore. There's a reason why our National Parks are so overused and under-maintained. People want exposure to "the wild" and corporations and to privatize them for profit.

As for romantic notions of subsistence hunting and fishing, we have them because indigenous treaty rights are finally being recognized, too late of course, but any tribe of any size has switched to casinos and entertainment as a source of wealth. Welcome to the 21st Century!

Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 15, 2016 09:18 PM
Disagree on all counts.
Jim Bolen
Jim Bolen
Aug 16, 2016 08:36 AM
Herbert
well said, We need to continue to try to find ways to live with wild animals especially ones we don't perceive as furthering our economic interests such as apex predators other then exterminating them. I support efforts and organizations such as Dave Foreman's Rewilding institute.
David Jenkins
David Jenkins
Aug 16, 2016 12:58 PM
Only ignorance and unmitigated selfishness can explain the phony claims that wolves (or bears) threaten moose and elk populations. Are there any examples anywhere in history of wolves driving ungulates extinct Predators like wolves prey on the weakest, and by doing so, eventually aid the health of the ungulate population. Wolves are just as much a part of God's creation as moose, and I like to believe that He knew what he was doing when he created both prey animals and predators. Trying to wipe out a species is not only ignorant, short-sighted and heartless, it is sacrilegious too.
Christie McLaren
Christie McLaren
Aug 16, 2016 05:13 PM
Hello from Canada. I am with everyone but Harold. Harold -- do you want to know what's really happening in Canada, where you insist there are "tens of thousands" of wolves? Well, here in Alberta, wolves are not doing well at all. The provincial government has been hunting and killing wolves on provincial public land, for the same reasons stated by Alaska, to boost ungulate populations and the hunting industry. But also to answer the demands of the oil industry in the northern half of the province. In the south -- in Banff National Park, where wolves are supposed to be protected -- the small Bow Valley wolf pack has lost SIX of its 8 known members in the past two months alone -- the alpha breeding female and a yearling female were both killed because construction workers and tourists left food and garbage for them to find, and they became too bold for public safety. Without a mother, 4 of this year's pups died when hit by trains. One other adult wolf is now showing bold behaviour and its life is endangered. These bold behaviours are rare and were caused by human carelessness and ignorance, as well as 20 years of parks policies that have emphasized tourists over the environment. One of North America's pre-eminent wolf biologists, Paul Paquet, says Banff NP is "a wildlife ghetto" where wolves are finding ti very difficult to survive, due to growing towns, development and human infrastructure and activities squeezed into their habitat. You can read about it here: http://www.rmoutlook.com/ar[…]in-wildlife-ghetto-20160811
As the top predator species on this planet, isn't it FINALLY time that we abandon childish things, such as the romantic, but adolescent, dream that we are still living in the romantic, but outdated "Grow, Expand, Build Bigger, Dominate, Conquer!" 19th Century?
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 16, 2016 10:12 PM
Well Christie, I disgree with most of what you stated. You better check the canadians studies on Caribau herds goind extinct due to wolf predation, much less the livestock losses by some of your producers. Yes, there are 10s of thousands of wolves in Canada. You cannot deny that. Is it not time for people like yourself to abandon childish things and look at reality for a change?
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 17, 2016 06:12 AM
Only an ignorant fool would delete the top predators from an ecosystem. We need more public school education in ecology and critical thinking, and less in trigger-happy foolishness. And I say that as someone whose family has owned guns in this country since the 1600s, and used them from time to time on nuisance quadrupeds and bipeds as the situation demanded.
Jim Bolen
Jim Bolen
Aug 17, 2016 10:11 PM
Thank you Harold on letting me know about the declining populations of Caribou. sad isn't it to the Caribou and the Inuits and their traditional way of life. So I checked on the situation and found your conclusion is wrong. Gas and oil development, loss of habitat and the accompanying road building which has interrupted their migration routes and of course global warming are the true culprits. Now killing off all the wolves would probably temporarily increase what is already an overstressed herd but don't you think it would be a better utilization of your time to support efforts to mitigate these root causes rather then to demonize Wolves. Certainly the people who have an economic interest from the above activities would like to deny their impact and make the big bad wolf the culprit Why are you going along with this falsehood?
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 18, 2016 07:30 AM
Once again, Ridiculous Jim. WOLVES
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 18, 2016 07:49 AM
I would personally rather see a higher mortality rate among uneducated humans and a lower mortality rate among quadruped predators. And I have shot and eaten deer and rabbits and upland game birds, and eaten caribou, elk, bear, moose, duck and goose. Wolves are essential to any ecosystem that contains herbivores. That was proven long ago in Yellowstone. If you want to shoot a wolf, put on a wolf mask and shoot yourself, Harold. Others who read this might find Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac" interesting reading.
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 18, 2016 07:58 AM
Typical comment from a person like you William. Can't justify the argument so you go after someone personally.

Wolves will be here long after you are gone.
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 18, 2016 08:09 AM
Not if imbecilic Fish and Game mannequins allow them to be exterminated by nimrod yahoos. I think I justified that argument adequately. Read the papers; read Leopold.
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 18, 2016 08:12 AM
Leopold is dead. Have a little faith in those on the ground. That would be the Fish and Game Employees
Rich Jordan
Rich Jordan
Aug 18, 2016 08:32 AM
Harold means to say the same Fish & Game employees who earn their pay checks by providing hunting/trapping opportunities. Like all wildlife agencies they have specific requirements about who can sit on their decision-making Boards. You can believe that if you're not a hunter, trapper or angler, you will not be welcomed and neither is your perspective. When they find a different way to funnel money into their coffers, only then can we expect decisions without bias. Another reason why independent studies are not appreciated by these agencies and their supporters.
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 18, 2016 10:21 AM
I have helped some Fish and Game employees through grad school, Harold. I have taught environmental history and published and co-published papers on historical marine ecology and marine environmental history. Read Aldo Leopold. Or, if you suffer from insomnia, read George Perkins Marsh. Better yet, take a couple of semesters of ecology at your nearby community college or university. You shoot a wolf in Maine and you'll be fined, your firearms will be confiscated, and you may do some time.
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 18, 2016 10:28 AM
I would add: read Farley Mowat's "Never Cry Wolf." He was sent to observe wolves, as a fish and game biologist. His book is a classic.
Christie McLaren
Christie McLaren
Aug 18, 2016 12:53 PM
By persecuting apex predators such as wolves, we risk losing important genetic knowledge (as with any species) as well as the critical role they play in a balanced ecosystem, weeding out the weak ungulates, keeping the ground-squirrel populations under control, etc.

About wolf populations in Canada ... Harold is correct, if we look only at numbers. But it's context that is important:

** Canis Lupus or grey wolf
Population -- est. 50,00-60,000 across Canada (includes the far North).
Official status in Canada and Ontario -- "Not at Risk"... but various sub-populations are threatened, especially in the more populated southern half of Canada.
Estimated populations in 3 provinces:
BC -- fewer than 8,000
Alberta -- 4,000
Ontario -- 9,600
Ontario wolf biologist Dr. John Theberge estimates that at least 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) are needed to ensure the viability of a wolf population. In Ontario, just 3 per cent of the natural range of wolves meets this size criteria AND is off limits to hunters and trappers. (The areas where wolves are protected are 4 Crown land preserves, but the most southerly one is Algonquin Provincial Park in central Ontario, and its status as a protected area for wolves is currently under threat of hunting and trapping.)

** Canis Lycaon or Eastern wolf
Population -- 500 .... located in Ontario and Quebec
Official federal status -- "Special Concern" /recommended for up-listing to "Threatened"
Official Ontario status -- "Special Concern"

** BC Coastal wolf (don't know its latin name)
Population -- unknown but small, confined to coastal islands. Recently "discovered" as a genetically separate subspecies.
Christie McLaren
Christie McLaren
Aug 18, 2016 12:57 PM
One last thing -- if we talk just about numbers and services to the ecosystem, we might be missing the main point:

Wolves -- along with bears, whales, porpoises, elephants and numerous other large mammals -- are intelligent, sentient beings with individual personalities. They exhibit a deep capacity for play, for empathy toward their fellow family members, and for feelings like grief. (Just like human beings.) Science has made great advances in this century, amply demonstrating all of this. Like many, I believe the time has come to figure out a way to share this planet with other apex predators.

I'll leave the last word to an Alaskan wolf biologist:
“Wolves call-howl to family members who have been trapped or shot. They howl in obvious pain and distress while still alive in traps or snares, and so do any other family members on the scene who might be trying to help them. It is not unusual for wolves to return to or remain near a location where close family members have been killed, even after a trapper or hunter has taken the dead wolves away…the emotions that I’ve observed on these occasions in the howling and other behaviour of a wolf near a close mate who had just died were obvious and intense.”
 -- Dr. Gordon Haber, Alaskan wolf biologist.
Harold Johnson
Harold Johnson
Aug 18, 2016 04:15 PM
Yes Rich, they earn their "paychecks" with money paid by hunters and fisherman. You see Rich, people like yourself like to comment about how wonderful wolves are but you do not pay for management or for jobs. They need to get the income somewhere, and hunting and fishing is a good fit. I can tell you that along with millions of other Americans, you are not going to tax me to pay for these jobs in some other way. Perhaps you yourself (if you have a job) could send money to the fish and game to help pay their expenses? Rich, they are not going to allow someone like you who does not even understand management to be on a board. Why would they?

William, I read "never cry wolf".. Interesting story but humanizing wolves in the backcountry is one thing. Having them destroy livelihoods with no controls is another. ie "http://www.ammoland.com/201[…]0658205#axzz4HckUdLpG"
Even through the book (and movie were good, Mowat is out of his mind. No reality.

Sure Christie, humanize the wolves....ask Candice Berner about that....oh, I forgot, you cannot. Wolves killed her when she was jogging. How many more people or livestock have to die for the sake o9f you environmental extremists?

Yes, Leopld was an interesting man, but just another environmental extremist like many of you posting on here. I would hope some of you are employed (and not by nonprofits) and actually pay taxes like the rest of us.

Hey, I like wolves just as much as anybody, but no controls and after awhile nothing is left buy wolves.
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 18, 2016 04:56 PM
European cattle do not belong in the Rocky Mountain West. They belong in Europe and those parts of the US that are topographically and climatically like Europe. We are over populated by a factor of 3 or 4 in the US, and need to return more of our range to its original state. Want to eat meat from an ungulate in the West? Eat bison. Eat antelope. Eat mule deer. Eat elk. Want to do something useful to our ecosystem? Don't have more than two kids, and make sure they attend college, regardless of what they end up doing for a living.
William Leavenworth
William Leavenworth
Aug 18, 2016 05:51 PM
Harold, If you think Aldo Leopold was an "environmental extremist" you are not very well informed. Aldo Leopold was a graduate of: Sheffield Scientific School, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Lawrenceville School, Yale University. He spent more time working in the wilderness as a government forester and wildlife biologist than you have spent outside of your home. His observations while doing his job were what led him to become a conservationist.
Jamie Lewis Hedges
Jamie Lewis Hedges
Aug 22, 2016 12:06 AM
It amazes me that wolves are still so controversial. It flabbergasts me that governmental bureaus are able to follow their own biases. I was nonplus to hear a ranger in Yellowstone NP comment snidely that scientists just decided to put wolves in the park. It was his tone that belied his prejudice. Fortunately, this took nothing away from our own experience of hearing the wolves howl (http://www.anovelecho.com/wolves-in-yellowstone/). My prayer is that at some point in our future we can a pragmatism that acknowledges the necessary role of a healthy ecosystem in our quality of life.