Endangered Species petition filed for Southeast Alaska wolves

A wolf on the Alexander Archipelago (Photo by Kristian Larson – ADFG)

Conservationists filed a petition Wednesday seeking federal protections for Southeast Alaska’s wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Shaye Wolf says Alexander Archipelago wolves are being targeted by hunters and their habitat is under threat.

These wolves are being devastated by trapping and by clear cut logging of their forest home,” the Oakland, California-based staff scientist said Wednesday. “And they need some stronger protections if they’re going to survive.”

Many resident hunters claim the wolf population is under-counted and blame predators for the decline of deer on Prince of Wales Island.

State and federal managers lifted the harvest quota on trapping over the winter. That led to an unprecedented 165 wolves taken in a single season.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s regional wildlife conservation supervisor Tom Schumacher in Juneau says the agency hasn’t completed its estimate for last fall’s population. But even so, the state doesn’t believe Southeast Alaska’s wolves are endangered.

Not having read the current petition I can’t really comment specifically — but we don’t see it as necessary,” Schumacher told CoastAlaska. “We think we can manage the wolves sustainably.”

The 111-page petition asks wildlife managers to declare Alexander Archipelago wolves as a distinct population. It identifies threats from legal and illegal trapping, deforestation from logging, inbreeding, and climate change. It blames the decline in Prince of Wales Island’s deer habitat on the legacy of clear cuts which peaked in the 1980s and 90s.

“We will review the petition and supporting documentation as a part of our petition review process,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Andrea Medeiros said in a statement. The agency has 90 days to respond.

The filing of a formal petition triggers what is often a lengthy and complex process.

Previous failed petitions to list the region’s wolves under the Endangered Species Act were filed in 1993 and 2011.