Alaska Game Agents Decimate National Park Wolf Packs
Air-Hunts and “Judas Wolf” Tactics Wipe out Natural Sustainable Wolf Populations
Washington, DC — Predator control by the State of Alaska has so degraded wolf packs in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve that the National Park Service (NPS) has ended a more than 20-year research program on predator-prey relationships, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result of state shoot-on-sight and other lethal removal tactics, NPS concludes that the wolf population in the 2.5 million acre national preserve is “no longer in a natural state” nor are there enough survivors to maintain a “self-sustaining population.”
Wolf packs in Yukon-Charley had been monitored by the Park Service with radio telemetry since 1993. While the Preserve sought to study natural predator-prey relationships, all of the packs routinely travel outside its boundaries where the state’s “Intensive Management” program has exacted a high toll, killing 90 park-resident wolves, including 13 NPS radio-collared for research purposes. Consequently, most (nine) of the wolf packs in the Preserve have been severely impacted, or eliminated, by the state.
Preserve Superintendent Greg Dudgeon explained the termination of the research project by noting that:
“The expense of collaring and monitoring wolves for research is not sustainable when ADFG [Alaska Department of Fish & Game] culls the same animals when located outside the Preserve.”
To accomplish its goals of reducing wolf populations in the entire Upper Yukon by 75%, the state pursues the controversial practice of shooting wolves from helicopters and airplanes. For example in 2013, all 24 members of the Preserve’s Seventymile Pack, including two with radio collars, were shot from ADFG-authorized private airplane gunners, eliminating the pack. In 2014, ADFG helicopter gunners shot all eleven members of the Lost Creek Pack, including two collared animals, eliminating that pack as well.
In this area, the state also employs “Judas Wolf” collaring, where state agents collar a wolf who then leads their gunners to the entire pack, where they then kill them all. ADFG fitted 28 Judas wolves with radio collars and a “total of 179 wolves were killed…in this wolf program” since 2011.
“A clearly excessive and misguided state predator control program has succeeded in destroying the natural character of one of nation’s premier natural places. We are aware of no other instance in which a state has so extensively compromised the ecological integrity of a federal conservation area,” commented Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member, who obtained the documents from NPS and ADFG and who is advocating a five-mile buffer around all Alaska federal conservation lands, in which state predator control activities would be prohibited. “The State of Alaska is foolishly, almost vindictively, squelching a generation of invaluable scientific inquiry into predator-prey dynamics.”
The state Intensive Management program is supposed to boost game animal populations, principally caribou and moose, by killing wolves and bears. Despite inflicting high mortality on wolf packs, however, even ADFG concedes that the Forty Mile Caribou herd population and calf survival rate has plateaued in the past five years.
“This program appears to be driven by anti-federal ideology rather than sound game management,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that ADFG contends that its elaborate predator control efforts are supported entirely by increasingly scarce state dollars but has also rebuffed Park Service requests to reduce its take of wolves and to avoid shooting collared wolves. “Here we have the ridiculous situation of two public agencies spending taxpayer dollars at cross-purposes to the detriment of both a major national park and the balance of nature.”