In a joint release, officials for the National Park Service and the Alaska Fish and Game Department have publicly resolved their differences over the killings of radio-collared wolves that roamed in and out of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.
In short, the two agencies said an honest mix-up led predator control agents to shoot four wolves, including two wearing radio-collars, that were running outside of the preserve earlier this month. The Park Service, after meeting with Game and Fish officials Tuesday, issued the following statement:
The Webber Creek pack of four wolves was killed on March 17 2.5 miles outside of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve northeast of Fairbanks. Two of the wolves recently had been collared by the NPS as part of a research program.
While Fish and Game is not under any legal obligation to avoid wolves collared by other agencies when conducting predator control programs on state land, ADF&G managers had committed not to take radio-collared wolves that were part of current NPS monitoring studies.
“We appreciate the Department of Fish and Game trying to avoid those animals,” said NPS Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica.
“Our department had a protocol in place to avoid this situation, but unfortunately, in this case, it didn’t work,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd.
The NPS had provided Fish and Game a list of frequencies of all wolves collared by the preserve staff and telemetry equipment to identify those wolves. Due to a series of misunderstandings, the Webber Creek pack frequencies were not in the hands of the Fish and Game team conducting the control program. The team, after noticing the collars, attempted on several occasions to hear signals from the collared wolves, and concluded that the collars were inactive. Fish and Game had committed to avoid only collars that were part of an active research program.
“Rumors of Park Service providing incomplete frequency lists or non-functioning equipment are not true,” Lloyd said. Likewise, “there was no indication of improper actions or intent on the part of the staff of either agency,” Masica said.
On at least two other occasions, Fish and Game staff avoided NPS collared wolves outside the preserve based on NPS-provided information.
Going out of the meeting, the two agencies agreed to review a list of recommendations made by Fish and Game officials that were were intended to allow a "more complete understanding of each other’s operations and the development of improved field protocols relating to predator control."
According to Park Service officials, Alaska’s Upper Yukon-Tanana Predator Control Program is currently suspended due to a lack of fresh snow. If conditions allow, the state could continue the program until it is suspended for the year on April 30. Fish and Game staff reconfirmed its commitment to avoid taking NPS collared wolves. The state has a goal of allowing up to 70 more wolves to be taken to reduce predation on the Fortymile Caribou Herd and moose in the eastern Interior. Predator control is not allowed within the 2.5 million acre Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.