Been recently getting some questions about "predator control" in Alaska. There are some controversial wolf and bear control programs going on up north, and it brings up the question of how we will manage our wolves (and bears) in future. Hunters in general, whether from Alaska or not, tend to favor these predator control programs, even when they drift toward extremes. They want higher ungulate densities and a larger slice of the ungulate pie and are even willing to live with higher hunter densities, more crowding, more noise, and even habitat damage in order to have higher success rates. Like "combat fishing," some areas may be moving toward a different form of "combat hunting," which for Alaska is a relatively new thing.
The how and why of the combat hunting and fishing mindset would make a fine sociological study in its own right <grin>, but right now I would like to ask all of you what your take is on prudent wolf management.
Should we manage wolves at all? Should we have reasonable seasons and bag limits on wolves, allow the trapping of wolves as a part of our management toolbox? And what about predator control...when if ever is it a viable option? Only in biological emergencies or even in order to boost an ungulate population thought to be too low?
In Alaska our Intensive Management Law (proposed and lobbied by hunters) mandates we achieve certain population and harvest goals of moose and caribou in some game management units. The objectives vary, with some calling for irruption densities of ungulates and hunters, while others are more moderate in scope. The range of the objectives gives quite a bit of latitude (for example, the harvest goals for one caribou herd call for 1,000 - 15,000 animals harvested annually), which is why various administrations can either promote widescale extreme predator control or virtually none other than what trappers and hunters might take. Without any predator control, some rural areas with few trappers would likely stay in low-density (LDDE) states indefinitely, and hunters would thus be limited to about a 3-5% harvest of an estimated moose population.
So there's some give here...and in trying to promote a more moderate position that neither says "No predator control ever" nor "widespread predator control forever," it causes me to ponder just what the outcome would be this conflict was ever resolved in a meaningful way. I realize that the conservation role I may play is in large part really about mitigation. Alaska will have future development, more roads and trails, and demand will always be there for more moose and caribou. So how do we manage our wolves in not only a biologically prudent way, but in a way that hunters and the public would accept?