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From an ADFG news release:
The wolf control program in the Nelchina Basin has been suspended as the latest population estimate is within the range established by the Alaska Board of Game.
As of Monday, biologists in the Glennallen office of Wildlife Conservation estimated 162 wolves in Game Management Unit 13. The long-term spring population objective set by the Board of Game is 135-165.
Typically, trappers and hunters take a dozen or so wolves in April, so the population might dip a bit more but still remain within the objective.
This is the second year in a row the spring population estimate has been within the objective. Last spring’s figure was 157. Prior to that, the last time the objective was reached was in 1989.
“By sustaining the wolf control program since its inception in 2004, we have been successful in reducing and maintaining wolf densities at a level that has allowed moose calves to survive and become the foundation of a growing moose population,” said Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.
As recently as 2000-01, the wolf population in Unit 13 was estimated at as many as 520. A dramatic increase in wolves in the 1990s contributed to a decline of more than 50 percent in moose numbers.
This was the fourth winter that wolf control has been conducted with the use of aircraft. Since the program began, moose trends in count areas surveyed every year indicate a promising turnaround.
Since 2000, the number of moose in the count areas is up 14 percent. More careful examination of the survey figures is even more encouraging. The number of calves in the count areas is up 110 percent and the number of yearling bulls is up 176 percent. Calves and yearlings are most vulnerable to predation by wolves and bears.
Overall bull numbers have increased 45 percent. Hunting in Unit 13 is limited to bull moose, and the harvest of 685 in 2006 is up 46 percent from the low harvest in 2000.
Cow moose numbers are down 3 percent in the count areas, but biologists say that is not surprising. Cow moose make up most of the population, so they are expected to have the longest recovery time. Cows born in the 1990s are dying of old age and haven’t been replaced fully because so few calves survived during the decline.
The 2006-07 control program took 33 wolves. Hunters and trappers so far have reported taking another 62. That number will climb as they bring in their pelts for sealing. The trapping season runs through April and trappers have 30 days after that to get furs sealed.
Control efforts focus on more inaccessible areas in Unit 13 where trapping pressure is less and some of the best moose habitat exists.
Given the high productivity of wolves, it is anticipated the wolf population will bounce back up to more than 250 by next fall. Therefore the department will resume control efforts next December aimed at maintaining the spring population at the Board of Game objective.
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