Wolf Song of Alaska News

Wolf Program Makes Progress

Bill Tobin / Voice of the Times / May 20, 2008

There is good news from the predator control front: Wildlife officials say pilot-gunner teams harvested 124 wolves this year so far, perhaps saving as many as 1,400 moose or 3,000 caribou. But the news could be even better. The goal had been to take up to 670 wolves.

While the number of wolves killed - last year it was 97 - is not as high as hoped because of a lack of snow in March, the results should show some effect on prey populations to the benefit of us all.

Many animal rights groups and individuals in Alaska and Outside are emotionally attached to wolves and see the predator control programs as anathema, even though the effort is aimed at preserving prey wildlife for animal viewers as well as hunters. With wolves taking, as one researcher found, a moose on average of every 4.7 days, packs of the predators can have a profound and debilitating effect on populations.

Trappers in Alaska take as many as 1,300 wolves a year and the populations remain healthy and growing. It is unlikely that Alaska's predator programs will have a decisive effect on their numbers.

The effort to thin the ranks of Alaska's wolf populations in specific areas and under strict controls to maintain a healthy balance between predator and prey species should be lauded, not condemned.

After all, if wolf populations explode to the detriment of prey animals, it will not be long until there are no prey - and no predators. That's the natural cycle. Left unchecked, both populations will go from very high to very low, with hunters forced to go through prolonged game shortages.

Apparently the short-sighted among us have a problem grasping that concept.

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