Public meeting, hearing announced regarding 2023 GMU 2 Wolf Harvest

Black wolf in coastal meadow in Gustavus,

Above: A black wolf in Gustavus (Kristen Romanoff ADF&G)

Craig, Alaska (KINY) – The USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) will hold a public meeting and hearing on Oct. 24, 2023, to share information and solicit comments on the Fall 2023 joint state-federal wolf trapping season in Game Management Unit 2.

Public input is valued in the planning process and important to a successful outcome.

ADF&G and the USFS intend to offer a 31-day trapping season for wolves in GMU 2, although the length of the season could be adjusted due to public input or additional analysis.

The public meeting and hearing will be at 6 p.m. at the Craig Ranger District office (504 9th St, Craig, AK).

Individuals can also participate virtually via Teams.

(Meeting ID: 247 720 856 294, Passcode: rZj77X), or call-in audio only at 202-650-0123 (Pin 215 887 386#).

Since 2019, the wolf harvest management strategy on Prince of Wales and associated islands, collectively known as GMU 2, has been to annually adjust harvest opportunities to maintain the wolf population within a sustainable Fall population objective range as established by the Alaska Board of Game.

ADF&G worked with the USFS, Fish and Game Advisory Committees, the Alaska Board of Game, the Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, and trappers to develop this new strategy that provides trappers with the flexibility and responsibility they desired while sustainably managing harvest of this wolf population.

Most GMU 2 wolves are taken by trapping, so harvest management focuses on adjusting the length of the trapping season.

ADF&G, with support from the USFS and Hydaburg Cooperative Association (HCA), annually estimates wolf abundance in GMU 2 using a DNA-based mark-recapture technique.

In Fall 2022, ADF&G and HCA collected wolf DNA samples from within the same large study areas used in 2016-2021. Samples were also collected from harvested wolves.

Interpreting Estimates

ADF&G estimates the preharvest Fall population of wolves in GMU 2 by analyzing detections and movements of individual wolves identified through DNA collected from hair traps and from harvested wolves.

Field and lab work for each estimate takes about 10 months to complete.

For Fall 2022 ADF&G estimated the GMU 2 population at 259 wolves (point estimate) with high confidence that the true number of wolves in GMU 2 prior to the Fall 2021 hunting and trapping seasons was within the 95% confidence interval range, 203 to 330 wolves.

Within that range of plausible values, ADF&G bases harvest management on the point estimate because that is the value most likely to be correct given the data collected that year.

However, ADF&G recognizes that the true number of wolves is likely to be somewhat higher or lower than the point estimate and encourages the public to focus on trends over several years, rather than year-to-year changes in point estimates.

Recent estimates indicate the population is stable and that harvest is sustainably managed.

Fall 2023 Harvest Management

In GMU 2 most wolves are harvested by trapping, so annual harvest management focuses on varying trapping opportunities.

Determining an amount of trapping opportunity that will result in a sustainable harvest involves considering recent population estimates, trends in trapper participation, documented harvest rates, public observations, and regulatory guidance.

Harvest rate, the number of wolves harvested per day of trapping season, is related to trapping effort, trapping conditions, and wolf abundance.

Since initiating the current harvest management strategy in 2019, harvest rate for GMU 2 wolves has averaged 2.5 wolves/day (range = 2.0-3.2 wolves/day).

Assuming an average harvest rate, managers predict that one month (31 days) of trapping opportunity is likely to result in harvest of about 78 wolves (31 days * 2.5 wolves/day = 78).

However, managers recognize that the range of harvest rates documented in GMU 2 could also produce a harvest ranging from 62 to 99 wolves.

The sustainability of the population is unlikely to be affected by harvest in a single year, so for 2023 managers consider harvest within that range acceptable.