Fairbanks — A wolf wounded last week on state lands during intensive management efforts northeast of Delta Junction was humanely dispatched and retrieved by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after it crossed into the adjacent Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The department promptly reported the incident to officials with the National Park Service which oversees the federal preserve. The department is reviewing protocol to minimize the chance of such incidents in the future.
“I’ve met in person with the National Park Service in Fairbanks,” said Division of Wildlife Conservation Regional Supervisor Darren Bruning. “Our meetings have been very positive. I shared details of the situation and we discussed potentially looking for opportunities for our agencies to collaborate or assist each other in the future.”
The incident took place on March 9 after a wolf was spotted on a ridge in the remote, mountainous upper Goodpaster River country south of the preserve. Department staff in a helicopter shot the animal, mortally wounding it. The wolf bolted north, over a ridge and down a steep slope, and had crossed into the preserve boundary by the time it was relocated and put down with a second shot.
The incident marks the first time a predator targeted by the state’s intensive management program needed to be dispatched in the preserve.
Wolf removal is part of a longstanding intensive management program to increase Fortymile caribou herd numbers and harvest. Climbing as high 260,000 animals in the 1920s, the herd numbered less than 8,000 by the mid-1970s. Studies from 1994 through 2003 revealed wolf predation accounted for 47 percent of calf deaths, and from 1991 through 2005, wolf predation accounted for 80 percent of the herd’s total adult caribou mortality.
An intensive management program was approved by the Board of Game in 2006 to remove some of the wolves and allow the Fortymile caribou herd to grow. The herd has increased by 2 to 4 percent each year since and is currently estimated at over 50,000. Fortymile caribou are an important food for Alaskans, particularly in the Interior communities of Circle, Central, Eagle, Tok, Delta Junction, and Fairbanks. For more information on intensive management in the Upper Yukon-Tanana Predator Control area, visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=intensivemanagement.unit_12_20b_20d_20e_25c#anchor.