SITKA, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity, Alaska Rainforest Defenders and Defenders of Wildlife petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to give Endangered Species Act protections to the Alexander Archipelago wolf in Southeast Alaska.
This rare gray wolf subspecies, which inhabits the coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, faces numerous threats. Legal trapping recently killed 165 wolves in one key population on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. Meanwhile the Trump administration is pushing to open hundreds of thousands of acres of wolf habitat to clearcut logging.
“These beautiful wolves are more threatened than ever,” said Shaye Wolf, a scientist at the Center. “They’re being bombarded by clearcut logging, unprecedented trapping and hunting, and chronic management failures by state and federal officials. We’re dangerously close to losing these rare wolves forever. They urgently need the protections of the Endangered Species Act if they’re going to survive.”
Today’s petition asks the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Alexander Archipelago wolves in Southeast Alaska as a “distinct population segment” due to the concentration of threats and population declines in the region. By 2018 the largest wolf population on Prince of Wales Island had declined by an estimated 60% over the previous 15 years due to escalating threats. New genetic evidence indicates this population is in danger from high levels of inbreeding.
“Over many years, optimistic management of Southeast Alaska’s small, isolated wolf populations by Alaska’s Board of Game and its Fish and Game Department has led to a succession of unfortunate surprises on Prince of Wales Island,” said Larry Edwards with Alaska Rainforest Defenders. “Now, a new genetics study of these wolves shows that populations in three of the region’s game management units, including POW, are more inbred than even the troubled Isle Royale population in Michigan. It notes there is a ‘hidden and insidious’ threat of ‘an extinction vortex’ for populations like these.”