This week, the Board of Game and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are reviewing proposals to scale up wolf control near Tok. Proposals include allowing private citizens in helicopters to shoot wolves, killing pups in dens, and allowing citizens to shoot wolves without recovering the bodies. As a lifelong Alaskan and hunter, I strongly oppose these plans.
Wolf control is not effective unless 50 percent to 70 percent of area wolves are killed each year. Although wolf control has been ongoing in the Tok region for about five years, moose and caribou populations have failed to rise, while calf birth weights have remained low, suggesting that population growth is limited by habitat, not by predation. Furthermore, human hunting pressure on the area is heavy.
Moose populations near Tok are sufficient to meet local subsistence needs. Wolf control in this region is an attempt to artificially boost game animal numbers at the expense of maintaining a healthy ecosystem. In effect, this management plan creates a game farm, not a functioning wilderness.
Since healthy moose and caribou populations already exist, I do not see a need to boost game animal numbers for road hunters around Tok. Most hunters and trappers I know are opposed to indiscriminate wolf "control." I'd rather have wolves and no meat in the freezer than an empty land without wolf song.
-- Rosemary McGuire