FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Alaska Fish and Game officials killed an Eastern Interior wolf pack last week, and the National Park Service -- which had been studying the animals -- is none too pleased.
All 11 wolves in the Lost Creek pack near Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve were shot, as were four wolves from another unnamed pack, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported ( http://is.gd/yxghT9). That included the Lost Creek pack's alpha pair, which had been fitted with tracking collars as part of an ongoing research project.
Doug Vincent-Lang, acting director for the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation, said the wolves were in an area adjacent to the preserve that has been targeted for aerial predator control to boost moose and caribou numbers. The area includes calving grounds for the Fortymile Caribou Herd.
"This is basically within our predator-control program in an area we've seen benefits from that predator-control program," he said.
But Yukon-Charley Superintendent Greg Dudgeon said the shootings are a setback for a two-decade-old study of wolf behavior. The Lost Creek pack had been monitored for the past seven years as part of the study, which looks at wolf migration patterns, denning habits and population changes, he said.
State predator-control efforts last spring killed 36 wolves in the area, reducing the population in the preserve by more than half, he said.
"With the loss of packs and collared animals, frankly it makes it difficult to do that work and maintain those sets," he said.
It isn't the first clash between the state and park service over aerial wolf shootings. The Department of Fish and Game shot two collared wolves in 2010 near Yukon-Charley, which the department attributed to "complicating factors" that included a possible collar malfunction.
There used to be an informal agreement between the Department of Fish and Game and the park service to avoid eliminating entire wolf packs near the preserve, particularly collared animals. Dudgeon said that arrangement "sort of went by the wayside" about five years ago.
Without assurances that its research subjects won't be shot, the long-term study is in flux, park service officials said.
"It certainly puts a crimp on it," said Jeff Rasic, chief of resources for the preserve.
But Vincent-Lang said the Board of Game reviewed the wolf-control program for the area at its meeting last month in Fairbanks, and decided it should continue.
"It's our intention to continue with the program," he said.