JUNEAU — Conservationists have asked the federal government to provide better protection for a wolf population in Southeast Alaska.
A letter sent to the supervisor of Tongass National Forest says a record number of 165 wolves killed by trappers threatens wolves on and around Prince of Wales Island, CoastAlaska reported Monday.
The April 13 letter to Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart was signed by representatives of advocacy groups Defenders of Wildlife, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.
"This was a shocking number of wolves that was killed this season," said Patrick Lavin, a Defenders of Wildlife policy director.
The management approach in the past season "cannot ensure a sustainable wolf population on Prince of Wales," Lavin said.
The Alaska Board of Game and wildlife managers lifted the quota for killing wolves before last winter's hunting and trapping seasons. Trappers doubled their efforts, leading to nearly as many wolves killed as the number estimated to live in the region.
Some residents argue the wolf population is much higher than official estimates and they blame wolf packs for killing deer prized by subsistence hunters.
Tongass National Forest spokesman Paul Robbins Jr. said in a statement that the forest service will partner with state game biologists to survey the fall population using field work that goes beyond DNA testing of hair samples.
"A reduced or closed season is among the options we will consider," Robbins wrote.
Environmentalists unsuccessfully petitioned the federal government twice to list the Alexander Archipelago wolves as an endangered species.
Conservationists point to a legacy of commercial forest clear-cutting across Prince of Wales as a reason for the deer population's decline.
“A challenge for all the agencies on Prince of Wales is the legacy logging and road-building has destroyed a lot of habitat and do make it challenging to provide sufficient habitat for wolves and deer,” Lavin said.