Southeast Alaska Wolves: Endangered Species?

Southeast Alaska wolves, endangered species

On Friday, it was announced through various environmental groups that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider and review the status of Southeast Alaska wolves for the endangered species list.

A coordinator through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Southeast Alaska, Steve Brockmann, said Friday, “We have seen that there has been enough substantial evidence which has been presented to us and has helped us to see that we should think about a real review on the status of these wolves.”

The potentially endangered species of wolf, which are found roaming in the Southeast area of Alaska, particularly around the island of Prince Wales, are a subspecies of the timber wolf and are considered extremely rare since they aren’t found anywhere else in the world. They make their homes and den in the roots of huge trees within the forest, and their diet is made up of mostly Sitka black-tailed deer. Both species are highly dependent on the old forests that they reside in, but which are in danger of being destroyed.

Logging has long taken place in the 17-million acre Tongass National Forest where a large portion of the potentially endangered wolves inhabit, along with the Sitka deer. In a petition filed by environmental groups Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity back in 2011, they argued that the population of the wolf species is rapidly declining and are at risk of not only losing their homes thanks to the logging, but also their lives to hunting and trapping. Recently in late March, seasons for hunting and trapping the Southeast Alaska wolves was closed on Prince of Wales Island because the target number of the species had already been reached, which has posed major concerns and only added to the endangered status.

“There are concerns,” stated Larry Edwards, a forest campaigner from Greenpeace and resident of the area. “This rare subspecies of timber wolf is found only in the southeastern area of Alaska, and their population has been declining very sharply over the last few years. The protection of the Endangered Species Act is absolutely needed to protect them. The limit for the harvesting cap was set way too high, and they were not even thinking about the illegal take of the wolves, either.”

Alaska director of the Center of Biological Diversity, Rebecca Noblin, agrees with Edwards. “They are only one of the most fascinating species that exists in Alaska. The Endangered Species Act is the only thing that can save and protect these beautiful wolves from hunting and logging.”

The director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, Doug Vincent-Lang, has released a statement saying they are disappointed with the agency’s decision, as Fish and Game thinks they have managed the wolves sustainably. He also has stated they don’t think the 90-day positive finding is justified.

During the 1990s, the federal agency had responded to an earlier petition, making their decision that a listing for the same wolves was not warranted. Beginning tomorrow, March 31, Fish and Wildlife will search for information on the Southeast Alaska wolves and then begin a year-long review which will eventually lead to a decision on if the species will be listed as endangered or threatened.

By Jessica Cooley

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

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