FAIRBANKS - The state Department of Fish and Game took to the air this week to track and shoot wolves in the Fortymile region near Tok, an effort aimed at boosting moose and caribou numbers.
The three-day field operation concluded Thursday with nine wolves killed in the first two days of the operation, including two collared wolves that were part of a National Park Service study. The wolves were killed on state land outside the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.
"A possible collar malfunction or other problems prevented staff from identifying the collared wolves. Causes of the tracking problem are being investigated," according to a Fish and Game statement released Thursday.
Fish and Game officials said they would continue to work with the NPS to minimize the impact on its wolf study program at the preserve.
Two other wolves in the same pack that were not wearing radio collars also were killed.
The region near Tok is one of five intensive management areas in the state where the department has authorized aerial predator control by private pilots and gunners. It is the only one where the state has used Fish and Game personnel to kill wolves.
Plans call for killing up to 185 wolves in the range of the Fortymile caribou herd this winter. Fish and Game says the program will resume with the next good snowfall.
The state shot and killed 84 wolves during six days last March using fixed-wing aircraft to find the wolves and a helicopter to shoot them.
A lack of snow in the Interior this winter has hindered control efforts by gunners in fixed-wing aircraft and has hampered trapping and hunting of wolves.
Fresh snow fell Sunday and Monday, giving pilots and observers a chance to spot fresh tracks, said Cathie Harms, a department spokeswoman. Gunners killed one wolf on Tuesday before returning to the sky the next day to scout for more, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Based on recent wolf surveys, an estimated 285 wolves live in the control area. The department's population objective is about 100.
Harms said previously that only wolves on state land will be shot, and the department would not take wolves that have been fitted with radio collars by Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve biologists. The state is prohibited from predator control on federal lands.
Dead wolves will be retrieved and pelts auctioned to the public. Specimens will be collected for parasite and disease research.