Fortymile wolf hunters to use helicopters again

CULLING: Lack of snow hinders fixed-wing gunners.

March 5, 2010 

FAIRBANKS -- A helicopter will be used to hunt wolves for the second year in a row in the Fortymile region near Tok as part of a state predator control program.

In a report to the Alaska Board of Game in Fairbanks on Thursday, biologist Jeff Gross said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will take to the air as soon as there is fresh snow to help find and track wolves.

"We're hoping for new snow to cover up the old tracks," he said. "Generally, we like to go out within six or eight days after snow."

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported 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.

But Gross said aerial hunters haven't come close to killing the number of wolves the state wants to cull this year from the Fortymile region to boost moose and caribou numbers.

The state wants to cull almost 200 of the estimated 300 wolves that biologists said range in the control area.

The upper Tanana-Fortymile region is one of five areas in Alaska where aerial shooting or landing and shooting wolves is allowed under the predator management program. Hunters must have a permit from the state.

Gross said he would consider it a success if the state is able to approach last year's helicopter harvest of 84 wolves.

He said lack of snow this winter has hindered control efforts by gunners in fixed-wing aircraft and has hampered trapping and hunting of wolves.

Predator control appears to be having a positive effect on moose and caribou populations in the Fortymile region, Gross told the board.

"I'd say we're seeing progress on both fronts in part because of it," he said.

Game board members Al Barrette and Ted Spraker suggested the department explore the possibility of using helicopter shooting in other areas to meet harvest goals quicker so aerial control programs won't be needed.

"If you're able to remove some of those important packs, they won't be operating on your moose all winter," said Spraker, of Soldotna. "If we can be as efficient in these areas, we can reduce the number of years we're involved in predation control."

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