FAIRBANKS -- The state Department of Fish and Game took to the air this week to track and shoot wolves in the Fortymile region near Tok, an effort aimed at boosting moose and caribou numbers.
The region is one of five intensive management areas in the state where the department has authorized aerial predator control by private pilots and gunners. It is the only one where the state has used Fish and Game personnel to kill wolves.
The state shot and killed 84 wolves during six days last March using fixed-wing aircraft to find the wolves and a helicopter to shoot them. The agency hopes to kill at least the same number in the region this year.
A lack of snow in the Interior this winter has hindered control efforts by gunners in fixed-wing aircraft and has hampered trapping and hunting of wolves.
Fresh snow fell Sunday and Monday, giving pilots and observers a chance to spot fresh tracks, said Cathie Harms, a department spokeswoman. Gunners killed one wolf on Tuesday before returning to the sky the next day to scout for more, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Based on recent wolf surveys, an estimated 285 wolves live in the control area. The department's population objective is about 100.
Only wolves on state land will be shot, and the department will not take wolves that have been fitted with radio collars by biologists from the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Harms said. The state is prohibited from predator control on federal lands.
Dead wolves will be retrieved and pelts auctioned to the public. Specimens will be collected for parasite and disease research.