Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Just 89 of These Wolves Remain on This Island, but Are They Endangered?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Just 89 of These Wolves Remain on This Island, but Are They Endangered?

Article excerpt

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Tuesday that Southeast Alaska's Alexander Archipelago wolf does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), even though its population has seriously declined on the Prince of Wales Island.

The USFWS suggests in a November Species Status Assessment that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population occupying Prince of Wales Island declined by 75 percent between 1994 and 2014, from 356 to 89 individuals.

The agency identified a number of stresses impacting local populations, but "most of them have the potential to affect wolves indirectly, not directly." Notable stresses included timber harvest, climate-related events, road development, and wolf hunting.

And while climate changes and timber clearing can limit the population of deer, the wolves' main food source, wolf hunting is the only stressor with direct mortality. Road development may seem like an arbitrary stressor, but the USFWS says it gives hunters and trappers better access to wolf populations.

All of these stresses affect individual wolves either directly or indirectly, but the USFWS said in a Tuesday press release that the island wolves don't qualify for ESA protection because "the population does not persist in an unusual or unique ecological setting; loss of the population would not result in a significant gap in the range; and the population does not differ markedly from other populations based on its genetic characteristics."

But wildlife advocates say the USFWS is giving up on the Southeast Alaska wolves.

"We think the US Fish and Wildlife Service didn't get it right and that they've overlooked some important things," Larry Edwards, a Forest Campaigner with Greenpeace, told Alaska Public Media. "It's very odd to us that the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges a 75 percent decline in the Prince of Wales wolf population and then basically writes that population off. …

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