State to kill wolves on Kenai Peninsula game unit

KENAI — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is moving forward with plans to shoot wolves from helicopters in a portion of the Kenai Peninsula, but an assistant area biologist says moose numbers are not likely to increase because the area lacks winter forage.

The Peninsula Clarion reports state “intensive management” will take place on 83 square miles of Unit 15A between November and March. No firm date has been picked, said Jason Herreman, Fish and Game assistant area biologist for the peninsula.

Unit 15A covers land from the Sterling Highway north to the edge of the peninsula. Most of 15A is managed by federal authorities who have consistently rejected shooting wolves from aircraft.

In addition to shooting wolves by air, intensive management also will include increased trapping. The department plans to hire a part-time employee for trapping, Herreman said.

Killing predators is intended to increase moose numbers but that will not happen in 15A, he said, because the unit’s habitat has too few winter food sources and cannot support more moose. Birch stands have matured and their shoots are out of the reach of moose.

With additional wolves killed, the Department of Fish and Game will have to expand moose hunting, he said. The alternative is that moose will starve.

A study midway through the trapping season in February estimated 45 to 50 wolves in unit 15A, Herreman said. Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation, said the department’s minimum allowable wolf population for the unit is 15 wolves.

The last moose census in Unit 15A, conducted in spring 2008, estimated 1,825 to 2,352 moose.

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