Skiers, snowmachiners and snowplow drivers weren't the only ones to take advantage of the above-average snowfall this month. The late snow has also helped hunters participating in the state's aerial predator control program track down more wolves.
Pilot/gunner teams have reported taking more than 30 wolves in the last 3 1/2 weeks in the five different control areas where aerial wolf hunting is allowed by special permit. The total take for the season stands at 117.
"I heard somebody took four out of Unit 16 the other day," information officer Bruce Bartley with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Anchorage said by phone Friday. "The guy was flying to his cabin and looked down and saw a pack of wolves, so he ran down and got his neighbor, who is another control pilot, and they got four of five."
The breakdown of the reported harvest thus far is 30 wolves in the Nelchina Basin (Unit 13); 29 in the McGrath area (Unit 19D); 23 in the upper Yukon and Tanana river drainage (parts of units 12, 20B, 20D, 20E and 25C); 20 in west Cook Inlet (Unit 16); and 15 in the central Kuskokwim (Unit 19A).
"It's probably a combination of conditions that were absolutely perfect and the long daylight hours," Cathie Harms of the Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks said of the spike in harvest over the past month. "That's what it takes."
The harvest so far this winter brings the number of wolves killed to 784 since the state initiated an aerial wolf control program on state land in five areas in Southcentral and Interior Alaska in 2003. The program was created to to increase the number of moose and caribou for subsistence and sport hunters. Last year, hunters participating in the program killed 97 wolves.
Permits expire April 30 but the department can reissue permits to extend the program into May if conditions allow, Harms said.
However, considering the state has not done that in any of the previous four years and the fact that the temperature shot up to 60 degrees on Sunday, it's probably not likely to happen this year, either.
"We got quite a bit of snow late, but we still don't have a real deep base," Harms said. "I'm not a weather person, but my guess is once it gets in the 50s and 60s, it's going to go quickly."
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.