JUNEAU, Alaska — The Southeast Alaska subsistence council is recommending that the quota for wolf hunting and trapping be increased on Prince of Wales Island’s federal lands.
The Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council voted in favor of recommending the increase, despite some backlash by its own staff, KTOO-FM reported.
The statewide Federal Subsistence Board, which meets in April, will make the final call on whether to raise the quota.
Island residents and tribal organizations brought the idea to the council, Vice Chairwoman Cathy Needham said.
“Trapping of wolves has been an historic opportunity for rural residents on Price of Wales Island, not just rural residents but also tribal entities,” Needham said. “There’s a long history of being able to trap for animals such as wolf.”
This fall’s estimate of Alexander Archipelago wolves – a distinct subspecies of the gray wolf – was 231 animals, allowing a harvest of 46 wolves. The council is suggesting a 30 percent increase, which would’ve upped this year’s quota to 69 wolves.
State biologists believe the island’s wolf population is rising, but others are concerned that the level of killing is unsustainable.
“This population has been petitioned to be listed under the Endangered Species Act – twice. And it’s also involved in some litigation,” said Bruce Dale, director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s wildlife conservation division.
Dale wrote to the council, saying under-reporting of wolf kills is an issue on the island.
“We’d like to slow the growth a little bit but we don’t want to cause a decline or even level it off until we have a management plan in place,” Dale said.
Needham admitted there are unknowns when it comes to the island’s wolf population.
“What is unknown in this whole process is what a sustainable or carrying capacity for wolves on the island is,” Needham said. “Being able to provide for the harvest of more animals is something that (trappers) would like to be able to exercise – so we’re responding to that.”