Alaska’s Board of Game this weekend will consider controversial wolf trapping programs for two areas of Southeast Alaska in an attempt to boost deer numbers.
The proposals would create state-sponsored trapping programs to reduce or eliminate wolves on Gravina Island near Ketchikan along with the Mitkof and Kupreanof Island shorelines near Petersburg.
The state is proposing to pay one or two experienced trappers to trap wolves along the state-owned tidelands of the two areas. The four or five-year trapping programs each could cost over 300-thousand dollars.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologists do not know if the trapping will successfully boost deer numbers. Other factors blamed for deer number declines are snowy winters, loss of habitat from logging and predation by black bears.
Fish and game does not have precise estimates of the wolves living in the two areas. However, based on population research from elsewhere in Southeast, the department thinks eight to 12 wolves live on Gravina Island. The state is proposing to kill that entire population and keep the island free of wolves for four or five years.
Near Petersburg, trapping would happen on Mitkof Island, Woewodski Island and the eastern portion of Kupreanof. The department’s target would be to trap 80 percent of the wolves in that area, or 50 wolves. Deer populations in the proposed wolf trapping areas would be compared to nearby areas without predator control to see if the programs are successful.
Deer are an important food source for hunters in Southeast Alaska and there’s been support among Southeast hunters for reducing wolf numbers. But it’s not a popular idea elsewhere. Comments from around the globe opposing the wolf trapping programs were submitted to the board.
Two groups, Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity, have petitioned for protection of Southeast wolves under the Endangered Species Act, arguing the region’s wolves are at risk of extinction. Fish and Game’s trapping plans says killing wolves in the two areas are not expected to create a conservation concern for wolf numbers overall in Southeast.
Operational plans for the trapping drafted by Fish and Game are posted on the Board of Game’s website. The public can listen to the meeting on that site as well.
The board meets March 15-17 in Kenai.