Monday, March 06, 2006

State's wolf numbers double while wolf control goes on

Alaska's wolf population has essentially doubled in the last 20 years, even in the face of substantial state wolf control efforts, according to ADF&G statistics reported by the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

It is tempting to think that more wolves taken in control programs means fewer wolves in the state. However, just the opposite has actually occurred. From the News-Miner:

"The increase in wolves is likely due to an increase in the number of moose and caribou from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, a time during which the state was actively conducting wolf control in several areas, said [ADF&G biologist Mark] McNay.

"Ungulate populations around the state were increasing" said McNay, citing the Mulchatna and Fortymile caribou herds, as well as the Tanana Flats moose population, as three examples.

Is wolf control therefore good public policy? This long term demonstration of the effectiveness of the policy leaves little room for doubt that it works, and that wolf populations can actually benefit. There may be arguments that can be marshalled against wolf management as the right policy for Alaska -- and other wolf jurisdictions -- but the extirpation argument is clearly not one of them.

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