Alexander Archipelago wolf to stay off endangered species list, Sullivan says

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Alexander Archipelago wolves seen on a US Fish and Wildlife trail camera on Prince of Wales Island.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan expressed his satisfaction today over a decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not list the Alexander Archipelago wolf as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement comes after Sen. Sullivan wrote to USFWS Director Martha Williams, voicing his strong opposition to the potential listing.

The potential listing of the Alexander Archipelago wolf as an endangered species had raised concerns among community leaders and experts associated with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It was widely feared that such a listing could have a detrimental impact on the local economy and community interests.

The February 2022 gray wolves in much of the Lower 48 western states were put back on the endangered list by a U.S. District Court judge, in response to actions by environmental groups objecting to their removal from the list.

“I want to commend the Fish & Wildlife Service for listening to Alaskans and abiding by the clear science in their decision not to list the Alexander Archipelago wolf as an endangered species,” Sen. Sullivan said. “This decision is a victory for science-based decision-making and local consultation, and a defeat for the Lower 48 radical environmental groups and their relentless war against our state and opportunities for our people. I wish more decisions coming from the Biden Interior Department prioritized science over politics and heeded the voices of people who actually feel the impacts of these decisions. Alaskans, like all Americans, deserve the right to access their lands and have jobs and economic opportunities,” the senator said.

Alexander Archipelago wolf is a subspecies of North American gray wolf. Found in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia’s coastal mainland and larger island complexes, the wolf is smaller and darker in color than wolves on the mainland. The Fish and Wildlife Service received a request from environmental groups to list it as endangered.

To determine if listing was warranted, the agency conducted a species status assessment using the best available Western science and traditional ecological knowledge of Southeast Alaska Indigenous peoples,” the agency said.

“The extensive review process found that Alexander Archipelago wolf is not currently endangered throughout its range, nor likely to become so within the foreseeable future,” the agency said. 

However, leading up to the push to try to get it listed, Scientific American boldly wrote in 2015 that the subspecies of wolf was nearing extinction, in a story headlined, “Alaska’s Rare Alexander Archipelago Wolves Nearly Wiped Out in 1 Year.”

“These are dire times for one of the world’s rarest wolf subspecies. Over the past year one of the most important populations* of Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago wolves (Canis lupus ligoni) has plummeted from 221 to as low as 60, according to data released last week. As a result, conservation groups—which have sought to protect the rare wolves under the Endangered Species Act for years—are now calling for emergency steps to preserve the few wolves that remain,” the science magazine wrote in a story that seems to have been placed by the Center for Biological Diversity, a group keen to put the wolf on the endangered list.

“Named after the southeastern Alaskan island chain, Alexander Archipelago wolves are smaller and lighter than other North American wolves, from which they have been isolated for millennia. They rely almost exclusively on a single prey species, Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis), although the wolves have been known to eat salmon a few months out of the year. Both the wolves and the deer have suffered over the past few decades as logging has eroded their island habitats,” the science-themed magazine wrote.

“Unfortunately for both species, the humans living and working on Prince of Wales Island and other remote islands also like to hunt deer. ‘I think the big problem is that some hunters see wolves as competitors for deer,’ says Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘Because old-growth logging has reduced habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer, wolves and humans are competing for fewer deer,'” Scientific American said.

12 COMMENTS

  1. How do you know you’ve encountered one?

    All the hair on your body stands on end, the Tongass gets a bit quieter, and you find scat or prints about 15 min later.

    • Congratulations MA for making comment of the day!!! You’ve had others that could have made comment of the day.

      • I’ve lived this on Douglas and the Perservance Trail more than once.

        Never by the glacier, oddly.

  2. The eco-terrorists and the feds need to get out of Alaska. They are clueless. They intend to use their fantasy characterization of the wolf as a lever to drive everyone out of Alaska so they can dream of a place with no human footprints and sell our resources to cover the national debt.

  3. Southeast Alaska’s Sitka Blacktail deer population is through the roof. Far more deer than people. But where the wolves settle, the deer population gets decimated. Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof are pretty much completely free from wolves because the brown bears sniff out their dens and kill the pups. And the deer are doing fantastic on those islands.

  4. ‘Because old-growth logging has reduced habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer, wolves and humans are competing for fewer deer,’” Scientific American said. Anyone who has ever been to a logging area, old-growth or otherwise knows that it creates habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer.

    “They rely almost exclusively on a single prey species, Sitka black-tailed deer” I believe there are studies showing that they do not rely almost exclusively on deer, they eat marine mammals, beavers, seafood, mice, and birds among other things they eat what they can when they can just like other wolves.

  5. Biological diversity? As an example, the last Thylacine died in 1936. However, the biodiversity of its habitat has remained intact ever since. All wild species generally experience early death regardless of the presence of apex predators. Nature is very effective at sorting.

  6. First, more credit should have been giving to The Division of Wildlife Conservation/community residents, as they provided the bulk of information and data. Instead of Sen. Sullivan’s letter. Next the comment was made “the wolf is smaller and darker in color than wolves on the mainland.” These wolves are also found regularly on the mainland and history and tracking data suggests these wolve came from the mainland to the islands.

  7. The “science” is only as good as the person paying for it. With enough money, you can get any kind of findings you want.

  8. Where is the rest of this story? Seems like it got published before it was finished. While the USFWS sided with the State and the locals in Southeast on this petition, it reads as if extinction of wolves on POW is all but inevitable. It’s really a slap in the face to the State of Alaska who’s dedicated a tremendous amount of time and money to document wolf dynamics on POW. If politics gave us this win, I’ll take it. But I don’t want people to forget that the State of Alaska, SCI-AK, APHA, the AOC and many other Alaskan organizations and individuals dedicated a tremendous amount of time to fighting this latest petition by the anti’s. The State of Alaska is the best wildlife manager in Alaska. The feds just talk, talk, and then they close hunts and walk away. No matter what you think of Dunleavy, his Administration fought hard for this and all of us Alaskans won.

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