Park Service concerned about Alaska's helicopter wolf kill

A new predator control effort that has the state shooting wolves from helicopters east of Fairbanks is raising alarms with the National Park Service.

The state Department of Fish and Game on Saturday began killing the wolves in hopes of boosting caribou numbers in the Fortymile herd that ranges from the Steese Highway to the Canadian border. At least 30 wolves have been killed so far.

The goal is to shoot as many as 150 wolves before they get too many caribou calves and before the snow and the wolf tracks disappear.

But Park Service officials, who learned of the plans late last week, questioned the state's approach. Among the concerns raised in interviews and in Park Service documents:

What will the shooting mean for wolves that travel between state land and a neighboring, 2.5-million-acre national preserve? What if the state overestimated how many wolves live in the area, and kills too many?

"We don't want to see the wolf population, or those packs that frequent the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, be eliminated or reduced significantly," said Debora Cooper, the Park Service's associate regional director for natural resources.

After meeting with the superintendent of the national preserve last week, the state agreed not to shoot wolves wearing radio collars that the Park Service uses for research, and to limit shooting of animals in certain wolf packs that are known to move in and out of the preserve, said regional Fish and Game supervisor David James.

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