6 groups file for emergency ESA listing for POW wolves

Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) in the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska. ADFG photo.
Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) in the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska. ADFG photo.

Six conservation groups on Monday petitioned for an emergency Endangered Species Act listing for the Alexander Archipelago wolf.

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In a letter addressed to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe and Regional Director Geoffrey Haskett, the groups cite the recent drop in the estimated wolf population on Prince of Wales Island, and the decision by state and federal officials to move forward with a wolf hunting and trapping season there.

Gabriel Scott is a spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands, one of the petitioners. He said the conservation groups had asked that the annual wolf hunt be suspended for a year, but that request was denied.

The federal subsistence wolf hunting season started on Sept. 1, and the subsistence trapping season starts Nov. 15. The state hunting and trapping season opens Dec. 1. The quota for this year, state and federal, is nine wolves.

Scott said he’s disappointed that the request to hold off on this year’s hunt was rejected.

“Our view is just that it’s reckless to manage a wolf hunt the same way for a declining, very low population as it is for a healthy population,” he said. “The way they operate might be fine for a critter like deer that’s not in danger of extinction, but when you’ve got maybe a few dozen wolves left on the island, you can’t treat it the same way.”

A state-run population study, announced in June, indicated that 89 wolves were on Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands. That’s a steep drop from the previous year’s estimate of 221. That study has prompted increased calls from conservation groups to protect the remaining wolves in Game Management Unit 2.

Scott said he can’t predict how long it will take government agencies to respond to the request for an emergency listing for POW wolves. He notes that the federal government has been reviewing a non-emergency request to list the wolves for a number of years. A decision on that request is anticipated by the end of this year.

Scott said depending on the results of the various requests regarding Prince of Wales Island wolves, a lawsuit is possible.

“Litigation is certainly an option,” he said. “We’d have to evaluate it at the time, but it’s definitely in the cards.”

The six conservation groups that signed on to Monday’s letter asking for an emergency listing are Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace and The Boat Company.