Just 89 Alexander Archipelago wolves are left nowadays in Alaska, and yet apparently this species doesn’t qualify as endangered or not even threatened.
This controversial verdict was revealed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Tuesday, January 5, and animal rights activists are already outraged by the decision to simply witness impassively as a whole population is dying out.
According to recent calculations, Alexander Archipelago wolves total somewhere between 850 and 2,700 specimen: around 62% are concentrated in British Columbia, while the rest 38% can be found in southeastern Alaska.
The problem is however that in the latter habitat the wolf population has been dwindling significantly in recent years.
More precisely, on the Prince of Wales Island, the number of Alexander Archipelago wolves has dropped by around 3 quarters, from 1994 until 2014, now reaching a mere 89 individuals, after having been estimated at 356, over 2 decades ago.
As scientists speculate, there are several reasons why this group of animals has been having a rough time lately, and most of these stressors are believed to influence population numbers in a roundabout way, and not in a forthright manner.
Namely, Alexander Archipelago wolves seem to be affected by climate change, logging operations, road work, and excessive sport hunting.
For instance, forestry activities related to the cutting and processing of tree trunks, coupled with extreme weather patterns associated with global warming lead to a reduction in the number of deer, which are the top source of nourishment for the severely threatened predators.
Also, as more roads are being built, the Alexander Archipelago wolves become sitting targets for trappers and huntsmen, who can spot them more easily, as the surface covered by forests is being rapidly depleted.
Despite all these threats, the US Fish and Wildlife Service still doesn’t believe that conservation measures should be enforced in order to list the species on the Endangered Species Act.
According to officials, the Prince of Wales Island can’t be considered an exceptionally atypical or diverse ecosystem, which is worth preserving.
In addition, even if the Alexander Archipelago wolves in this area were to perish, this wouldn’t make a significant dent in their overall population, and it also wouldn’t represent a major loss, since their genetic makeup is extremely similar to the one encountered among other groups which would continue to exist.
Obviously, this outlook isn’t shared by environmentalists, such as Larry Edwards, an anti-logging Greenpeace campaigner based in Sitka, Alaska.
According to Edwards, it’s completely peculiar that authorities are admitting that three-quarters of this gray wolf subspecies has already disappeared on the Prince of Wales Island, and yet no measures will be introduced to curb this decline.
Ever since 1993, petitioners have called for the Alexander Archipelago wolf to be classified as threatened based on the Endangered Species Act, but that initial request was denied in 1997. in 2011, a similar action was proposed, but it appears that once again it has been met with reluctance.
In fact, representatives of the US Fish and Wildlife Service seem to have little qualms regarding the extinction of this wolf population.
As declared by Drew Crane, the agency’s Regional Endangered Species Coordinator, the small Alaskan group doesn’t represent such an important percentage of the total number of Alexander Archipelago wolf species.
Although it is predicted that its population will keep dwindling by around 8 to 14% in the following three decades, this shouldn’t be seen as a source of concern, since in other areas the species appears much healthier and stable.
Representatives of the logging industry are naturally content that no restrictions will be imposed on their operations set in the Tongass National Forest, which is the Earth’s largest temperate rainforest.
Even Alaskan senator Lisa Murskowski has welcomed the decision, insisting that timber harvesting should be given
priority in Southeast Alaska, regardless of criticism issued by animal rights groups.
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