Posted on 09 May 2012.
Home to wolves, bears, and caribou, Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula was once known for its large moose population. But a lack of natural wildfires has changed conditions on much of the Kenai, and the once-abundant willow favored by moose have been succeeded by black spruce. This loss of food and habitat, compounded by factors such as excessive road mortality and overharvest of males, caused the peninsula’s moose populations to decline. And so last spring, the Alaska Board of Game decided that something drastic must be done to prevent the further loss of moose—aerial wolf control.
The plan was riddled with problems from the beginning. Regional biologists argued that predation was not the primary factor limiting moose and that necessary baseline data needed to make an informed decision was absent. Additionally, such a program would be difficult to monitor for success. Defenders echoed this message. We have long advocated that ADF&G use the best available science to justify their controversial predator control programs in order to ensure that wolves are not killed unnecessarily. We worked with others to demonstrate the biological shortcomings of the plans as well as highlight the controversial nature of wolf control on the Kenai.
And yet despite its obvious flaws, the Alaska Board of Game not only unanimously passed the plans for wolf control during their January 2012 meeting, it asked that the finalization of the plans be expedited. It seemed the aerial gunning plan was a go. Until last week.
In a welcome turn of events, ADF&G decided that rather than rush blindly to act on the Board’s ill-conceived plans it will instead collect the information necessary to make a well-informed management decision. Our message had been heard! This is a win not only for wolves, but the thousands of visitors flock to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula annually to hike, ski, boat, hunt, fish and view wildlife each year as well.
For now, it appears Kenai wildlife programs are on the right track. In the meantime, Defenders will continue to be a voice for science and as always, our country’s wolves.
Read more about how our Alaska office is helping to shape responsible policies on predator control throughout the state.
Posted in Alaska, Features, Species at Risk, wolves
Posted on 15 October 2010.
Alaskan sea otters are facing a new threat. Congressman Don Young of Alaska floated federal legislation late last month that aims to cull sea otter populations through increased subsistence hunting of the protected marine mammals.
The new measure would allow Alaska Natives to harvest more sea otters and would lift restrictions barring full pelts from being commercially sold, a move that Defenders fears would lead to greater demand for sea otter fur.
“Fisheries and wildlife management decisions should be based on sound scientific evidence and made by wildlife authorities, not politics,” Jim Curland, Defenders’ sea otter expert, says.
Today, the Marine Mammal Protection Act — a nearly 40-year-old law that’s helped sea otters begin to rebound — “allows Alaska Natives to catch otters for subsistence use. It limits sales to pelts turned into handicrafts, clothing and similar objects,” according to a report by Stikine River Radio.
Fishing groups claim that sea otters are competitors for crabs and other shellfish.
But it’s not clear to what extent sea otters here are impacting shellfish stocks. “This is a perceived threat against fisheries,” says Jim Curland, Defenders sea otter expert, “and not one that’s based on facts.”
Defenders is against increasing the current subsistence hunting limits. “Fisheries and wildlife management decisions should be based on sound scientific evidence and made by wildlife authorities, not politics,” Curland says.
Sea otters have been shown through numerous scientific studies to play a key role in helping coastal waters stay healthy and full of life — keeping kelp eating animal populations in check. Sea otters allow undersea kelp forests to flourish, providing food and shelter for fish, crabs, urchins and a variety of other sea creatures.
Listen to Curland on NPR affiliate Stikine River Radio’s website.
Learn more about what you can do to help save sea otters.
Posted in Alaska, Experts, Features, Sea Otter