wwwSoutheast Alaska is home to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, a subspecies of gray wolves. However, this wolf is being blamed for low deer harvest in two specific areas: Gravina Island and the Lindenburg Peninsula. In a recent ADFG meeting, it was voted to eliminate (by trapping) wolves from these areas.
There are many plausible reasons why deer harvest numbers are low: extensive timber harvest that has eliminated crucial winter habitat, bear predation, low numbers of hunters, or outdated deer surveys. Larry Edwards of Greenpeace protested the wolf extermination plans on grounds that the carrying capacity of deer has been overestimated, particularly in areas that have been heavily clearcut. Elimination of predators has not been proven to be a valid means of maintaining deer numbers, and deer can overbrowse an area if no predators are present.
In addition the number of wolves on Prince of Wales has been halved in recent years as various environmental organizations have attempted to list the wolf as threatened on the Endangered Species Act. ADF&G is mandated to track deer and wolf numbers before trapping can go into effect. Hopefully, this 19th century policy will not go into effect with our local wolf species.
Update to fall of 2015: AA wolf numbers are facing extermination. Recent counts of wolves on Prince of Wales Island estimate 89 wolves remain, dropping from 220 in 2014. Packs are not reproducing at a normal rate, numbers that are insufficient to continue as a viable species. ADFG is allowing 9 wolves to be trapped during the 2015-16 year. Often the final number is higher, since the final count is not tallied until the season ends.
Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity have requested that Fish and Wildlife protect wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The Big Thorne timber sale, the largest sale in years located on Prince of Wales, is moving ahead; 35 mmbf has already been logged. Logging destroys old growth habitat and increases human access to wolves and their denning areas.
Genetic diversity is essential for any species; if the number of wolves drops too low, inbreeding affects wolf populations. State and federal agencies must protect this species if they are to avoid the loss of this crucial predator.