State employees who shot two radio-collared wolves earlier this month did not willfully disregard an agreement with the National Park Service to leave such animals alone, state and federal officials have concluded.
That conclusion is not surprising. It would be hard to imagine state officials and employees intentionally adding to the controversy about the wolf control effort by shooting two wolves they had already agreed to spare. A mistake, not bad intent, led to the incident.
The agencies involved on Tuesday offered a simple explanation, which is usually the best sort.
The two collared wolves were part of a research project being conducted by the National Park Service in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve, located northeast of Fairbanks. The federal officials had given a list of active radio-collar signal frequencies to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game so its aerial gunners could avoid shooting the research subjects. They did not “accidentally on purpose” give the state the wrong frequencies.
However, for some reason, the proper frequency for the two collared wolves in the Webber Creek pack was not entered into the receivers of the Fish and Game team. The team didn’t know that. So when they heard no signals from the wolves they were tracking, they concluded the collars were inactive. Nothing in the agreement with the National Park Service prohibited the taking of wolves with inactive collars. The wolves were outside the boundaries of the preserve.
This was an unfortunate incident. It’s never good to see one government agency spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to create a research project only to have another government agency literally shoot it down. And, given that wolf control already is a matter about which people have strongly held opinions, this incident didn’t help the state as it makes the case for such efforts.
Nevertheless, the facts show that no one was trying to play cowboy or deceive anyone else here. It was an simple mistake. We can all go back to debating the particulars of wolf management and biology instead of the motives and agendas of those who are doing the work.