Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, announced that the Unit 2 wolf harvest for regulatory year 2015-16 would be set at nine wolves in Game Management Unit 2 (which includes Prince of Wales). This decision is appalling as the Prince of Wales wolves have been nearly wiped out with a confirmed 60% decline of the population, pushing this iconic species to the brink of extinction with numbers possibly as low as 50 to 60 individuals. Fish and Game's report estimated that the wolf population on and around Prince of Wales in fall 2014 was between 50 and 159, and more than likely approximately 89 wolves, down from the estimated population of 250 to 350 in 1993. This report also stated that females have been reduced to only 25 % of the plummeting population, completely compromising the wolves' ability to recover from their decline. This estimate does not account for the 29 wolves reported taken in the 2014/2015 winter hunting and trapping season [which represents a loss of 1/3 of the entire population]. This estimate, also, does not account for any illegal takes during that time or since, which studies indicate are substantial.
Data in the Alaska Department of Fish and Games' report shows that, as of fall 2014, only 7 to 32 female Archipelago wolves remain.
That's 7 to 32 female wolves on a nearly 2,600 square mile island. This would be possibly 1 breeding wolf per 371.4 square miles. Even if they are able to reproduce at these reduced numbers, the risk of inbreeding is high, putting them at further risk of extinction due to the, soon to be, complete loss of genetic diversity, which can negatively affect the species in many ways, such as weakened immune systems [which are unable to fight off disease], skeletal deformities, and smaller litters with higher mortality.
Emergency measures should be taken to save the lives of the few remaining Prince of Wales wolves. ADF&G;, knowing poaching levels are as high as legal "take" should act to protect them, certainly not encourage hunting.
Furthermore, it is Alaskas' responsibility to protect the Alexander Archipelago Wolves on Prince of Wales. Protecting this imperiled species is the state agencies' obligation to their citizens, as is heeding the warning of the scientists and conservationists. These professionals assert that the Archipelago wolf population has plummeted to a dangerously low population, that distributions are no longer sufficient to maintain genetic viability, and that existing regulations (which have not been adhered to) with the failing taxpayer supported logging projects on Prince of Wales are not adequate enough protection to ensure persistence of population numbers of this unique species.
The Wildlife Trust Doctrine, a branch of the Public Trust Doctrine, defines the obligation of the states responsibility and obligation to its citizens, and dictates that wildlife has no owners at all, and therefore belongs to all citizens equally. As a result, states have a "sovereign trust obligation" to ensure that wildlife resources are protected and managed responsibly, including the wolf, not just for the benefit of current citizens, but also over the long term. The Wildlife Trust Doctrine imposes a duty to ensure proper protection for the Alexander Archipelago wolf, as well as any other species no longer (or never) protected by the federal government.
Alaska needs to do the right thing and cancel this year's hunt for the imperiled Alexander Archipelago wolves on Prince of Wales. Not only is extinction forever, but it is also unconscionable when it can be easily be avoided.
Ways which you can help save this unique subspecies and their habitat:
Sign the petition from Earthjustice urging USDA Secretary Vilsack to halt the planning of several large-scale old growth timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, critical habitat for the Alexander Archipelago Wolves.
Sign the petition to Bruce Dale, Acting Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation asking him to take emergency action to protect the few remaining Alexander Archipelago wolves, and the petition to USFWS asking for their protection.
Please send a simple cut and paste email to elected officials on behalf of the Prince of Wales wolves. For further information and ongoing efforts please join our event