FAIRBANKS — Lack of snow and lack of daylight has combined to limit the killing of wolves in Interior game units as part of the state’s aerial predator control program.
As of Thursday morning, pilot-gunner teams with permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to shoot wolves from the air or to land and shoot them had reported taking a total of 29 wolves — 24 in Game Management Unit 13 (Nelchina Basin) and five in unit 16 (west Cook Inlet).
No wolves have been reported taken in the three Interior regions where aerial wolf control is permitted — near McGrath in unit 19D east; in the central Kuskokwim River region in unit 19A; and the upper Tanana-Yukon region in parts of units 12, 20B, 20D, 20E and 25C.
“The one thing holding people back here is daylight,” said Cathie Harms, a department spokeswoman based in Fairbanks. “It takes people a while to fly over to Tok, and once you get there you don’t have as much time before you have to head back.
“As the days get longer, we expect that to change,” she said.
The shortage of snow hasn’t helped matters for aerial wolf hunters. Pilots must land to pick up any wolves that are shot.
With only 25.4 inches of snow at the Fairbanks International Airport — about half of what has normally fallen by now — landing conditions would be rough in most places.
Pilots also need fresh snow to help them track animals.
“The sun above the horizon and fresh snow is what is needed for people to get out there,” Harms said.
The state has issued permits to pilot-gunner teams to shoot wolves from the air or land and shoot them in specific game management units for seven years.
Last winter’s wolf harvest of 42 was the lowest annual total. Lack of snow made for rough landing conditions around the state. Only 28.3 inches of snow fell at the airport in Fairbanks, making it the third-lowest snowfall on record in Fairbanks since 1904.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.
Here are the annual number of wolves reported taken by pilot/gunner teams in the past seven years as part of Alaska’s aerial predator control program. The annual totals do not include wolves shot by the Alaska Deaprtment of Fish and Game.
2003-04 — 142
2004-05 — 275
2005-06 — 153
2006-07 — 97
2007-08 — 124
2008-09 — 167