The Southeast Alaska's Alexander Archipelago wolf is not an endangered species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Despite a serious decline in the species' population on the Prince of Wales Island, the Alexander Archipelago wolf doesn't merit protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In November 2015, the USFWS's Species Status Assessment suggested that the Alexander Archipelago wolf's numbers on the Prince of Wales Islands had decreased by 75 percent. The species on the island declined from 356 to just 89 between 1994 and 2014.
The USFWS identified several factors that affected the species' declining numbers: climate change, timber harvest, wolf hunting and road development. The agency noted that most of the external factors have indirect, not direct, effects on the wolves.
Wolf hunting directly affects the species' mortality. Timber harvest and climate change-related events can lower the deer population on the area, which are the main sources of food for the wolves. Road development seems to indirectly affect the species as well, as it gives the hunters more access to the wolves. Still the USFWS said the species didn't qualify for protection under ESA.
"We determined that many of the life-history traits and behaviors of the Alexander Archipelago wolf, such as its variable diet, lack of preferential use of habitats, and high reproductive potential, increase its ability to persist in highly modified habitats with numerous stressors," said the USFWS.
Many wildlife advocates raised their concerns and said the USFWS has given up hope on the species. Greenpeace's Forest Campaigner Larry Edwards said the USFWS has overlooked some of the important factors affecting the species.
Edwards added how odd it was that the USFWS acknowledged the 75 percent decrease but decided that the species do not merit protection under ESA. The U.S. agency's prediction of the total remaining population of the wolves was somewhere between 850 to 2,700 individuals. About 62 percent reside in British Columbia. Approximately 38 percent remain in southeastern Alaska.
Protection advocates attacked the USFWS' wide-range population estimates to be a lack of knowledge about the species' actual remaining numbers and status.
A direct remark from USFWS' Regional Endangered Species Coordinator Drew Crane resulted in an indirect admission that the U.S. agency might be sacrificing the species' small population on Prince of Wales Island.
"But Prince of Wales Island in general only constitutes six percent of the range-wide population of the Alexander Archipelago wolf," said Crane. Still the agency predicts that the remaining population on Prince of Wales Island will decline in the succeeding 30 years by as much as 14 percent.
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters | Flickr