SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

POW Wolf Harvest

By Dave Person


August 27, 2015
Thursday PM

Recent reports on KRBD and in the Ketchikan Daily News about the wolf situation in game management unit 2 (Prince of Wales and adjacent islands) certainly were informative but they failed to discuss the most critical issues. First, as someone who studied wolf and deer populations in that unit for 22 years, I don't believe for a nanosecond that the wolf population all of a sudden declined 60% during last winter. During my field work, I observed that population declining substantially for over a decade. It is most likely that the autumn 2013 population estimate of >220 wolves was much too high owing to inappropriate extrapolation from a small study area and study population boundary effects. I designed the initial strategy and protocols ADFG and the USFS are using to estimate wolf population in the unit. As part of my plan, ADFG and the USFS were to use wolf DNA extracted from hair traps to estimate population within a closely monitored study area that was only a portion of GMU 2.

In addition, they were to live capture and radio collar wolves within the same study area and use the captured wolves to locate and count wolf pack members as an independent and alternate way to estimate population. This was a method I successfully pioneered in GMU 2 back in the mid-1990s. Thirdly, they were to conduct a harvest survey of wolf hunters and trappers in GMU 2 to determine if useful population information could be obtained in that way. The idea was to compare all three methods to see if they agreed on numbers or trends. In that way, the DNA procedure could be supported with independent evidence of its validity and then, and only then, become the tool routinely applied within the larger GMU. I am not aware of any information that has been released concerning population and trends obtained by the alternative methods.

Currently, ADFG and USFS rely solely on the DNA derived evidence without any independent verification of the method. I believe the autumn 2014 population estimate of 89 wolves is more reliable than the previous year's estimate because ADFG and USFS greatly expanded the area covered by the hair traps. Thus, they are extrapolating to the entire GMU 2 population using base data from a larger proportion of the unit. Nonetheless, the only known is the number of individual wolves identified by their DNA (minimum number known alive during autumn) minus the number killed during the hunting and trapping seasons. Population estimates derived from those identified individuals are based on mark-recapture statistical methods, which can be very reliable if key underlying assumptions are met about the adequacy of the sample of identified individuals representing the entire population. However, they can be very unreliable if those assumptions are violated. In addition, the reported harvest of wolves always underestimates the number actually killed by people. The current spring 2015 population estimate is 89 29 (reported harvest) = 60 wolves. Keep in mind we estimated the autumn population in GMU 2 to be >300 wolves two decades ago.

I applaud ADFG for setting their new harvest cap of 9 wolves based on the lower confidence limit of the autumn 2014 population estimate. However, and much more importantly, I am not aware that any of the agencies involved (ADFG, USFS, Federal Subsistence) has publicly expressed a scientifically credible population goal for the wolf population in GMU 2. Without such a goal, a harvest guideline is meaningless and unprofessional. That goal needs to address the demographic and genetic realities of that population and it needs to be monitored and frequently evaluated. Hopefully, the population goal will be based on science and not another PIOMA (pulled it out of my @$$) number because the margin of error is now long gone and the viability of the population may be at serious risk. Any statements by the agencies to the effect that they have no concerns about wolf population viability in GMU 2 and that the population will rebound should be taken with a grain of salt. They simply have no idea.

Dave Person
Braintree, Vermont

About: "Former research wildlife scientist for ADFG. Conducted wolf and deer research in Southeast Alaska for 22 years. Resigned in 2013 and now happily build muzzleloading guns in my shop on 18 acres in the mountains of Vermont."

Received August 26, 2015 - Published August 27, 2015



State sets POW wolf harvest quota at 9 by Leila Kheiry, KRBD - A wolf harvest quota has been set for Game Management Unit 2, which is Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands. According to a joint news release from the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, biologists have set the state harvest at nine wolves. - Read this KRBD story...
August 21, 2015 - KRBD

Enviros Object to POW Wolf Harvest - Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, announced Friday that the Unit 2 wolf harvest for regulatory year 2015-16 will be set at nine wolves. Game Management Unit (Unit 2), includes Prince of Wales Island and a series of small adjacent island. - More...
SitNews - August 24 2015



Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

letter Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor


Representations of fact and opinions in letters are solely those of the author.
The opinions of the author do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.

E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.

Published letters become the property of SitNews.

SitNews ©2014
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.