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Wildlife

68 wolves taken by trappers on Prince of Wales Island as conservationists object

Biologists are using new techniques to study wolf populations, including those on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)

JUNEAU — Alaska wildlife officials have reported that 68 wolves were taken by trappers in 2020 on or near Prince of Wales Island.

Conservationists unsuccessfully attempted to block the 21-day wolf trapping season from November to December, CoastAlaska reported on Thursday.

State Department of Fish and Game officials had ruled that trapping could be safely allowed and would not pose a danger to the overall wolf population. Conservationists had argued that state and federal officials were allowing unsustainable killings.

“If you can catch 68 wolves in three weeks,” Fish and Game regional wildlife supervisor Tom Schumacher said, “I think that means you still have a pretty robust population of wolves.”

Schumacher said state biologists do not know the exact fall 2020 population yet, but that he is “pretty confident” there were between 150 to 200 wolves.

The state agency released a report in fall 2019 estimating there were 316 wolves in and around Prince of Wales Island. That figure did not include the record 165 wolves reportedly killed by hunters and trappers later that year, CoastAlaska reported.

Conservationists have argued that the wolf population near the island is threatened and that some hunters and trappers do not report their kills.

“This level of carnage shows that wolves in Southeast Alaska desperately need the protections of the Endangered Species Act or they’ll become another statistic in the wildlife extinction crisis,” Shaye Wolfe, a staff scientist in Oakland, California wrote in a statement for The Center for Biological Diversity.

Island residents have testified at hearings that the trapping season is warranted because too many wolves prey on deer.

Conservation groups counter that decades of commercial development on the island’s forests are to blame for thinner deer herds.

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