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  • Alaska Species Ranking System Summary Report - Gray wolf, Alexander Archipelago

    Gray wolf, Alexander Archipelago Class: MammaliaOrder: Carnivora

    Conservation Status

    G Rank: G4T3

    S Rank: S3


    Final Rank

    Conservation category: VII. Yellow

    VII = low status and high biological vulnerability and action need

    Action: 12

    Status: -16

    Biological: 1.2


    Wolves in southeastern Alaska were targeted for extensive predator control programs between 1915 and 1977 (Harbo and

    Dean 1983), but little information is available on population numbers during the early years of this period. Kirchhoff (1991)

    reviewed survey and harvest data from the mid-1960s until 1990. He noted that the wolf populations peaked in the mid-1960s

    then declined following severe winters in 1968/69 and 1970/71 (see also Olson 1979). At present, the wolves appear to be

    increasing on Prince of Wales, Mitkof, and Kupreanof islands, due to increasing deer numbers (Kirchhoff and Pitcher 1988,

    Kirchhoff 1992). On Kuiu and Wrangell islands, the wolves appear to be stable at relatively low levels (Smith et al. 1987).

    Overall, current population is thought to be stable at moderate to high densities (USFWS, Federal Register, 4 September


    -6Population Trend (-10 to 10)

    Distribution Trend (-10 to 10)

    Although logging may degrade habitat for prey and thus wolves, that has not affected distribution. Indeed, wolves are

    expanding to Douglas and possibly Admiralty Island (Person, ADFG, personal communication).





    Population Size (-10 to 10)

    Range Size (-10 to 10)

    The present wolf population in southeastern Alaska has been estimated at 635-690 individuals (Kirchhoff 1992) or 750-1500

    individuals (USFWS 1997). Wolves are most abundant at the southern end of southeastern Alaska, including the Cleveland

    Peninsula, Revillagigedo Island, and Prince of Wales Island, where there is an estimated 1 wolf per 45-65 sq km (Wood

    1990). This density is relatively high by Alaskan standards (Ballard et al. 1987), but is low compared to densities in British

    Columbia (1 wolf per 13-18 sq km) and the contiguous United States (1 wolf per 15-25 sq km) (Van Ballenberghe et al. 1975,

    Hebert et al. 1982, Fuller 1990). The wolves are less abundant on Kuiu, Mitkof, Wrangell, and Kupreanof islands, where there

    is an estimated 1 wolf per 130 sq km. On the mainland in southeastern Alaska, the wolves are least abundant (1 wolf per 195

    sq km) (Morgan 1990). According to Person (1996), there are between 500 and 3000 wolves.

  • Alaska Species Ranking System Summary Report - Gray wolf, Alexander Archipelago

    Population Concentration (-10 to 10)

    USFWS, Federal Register, 26 August 1994 in NatureServe 2007b).

    Does not concentrate (Person, ADFG, personal communication).

    Reproductive Potential

    Age of First Reproduction (-5 to 5)

    Number of Young (-5 to 5)

    Ecological Specialization

    Dietary (-5 to 5)

    Habitat (-5 to 5)

    Age at first breeding is about 22 to 34 months.

    Litters of 3 to 7 young are produced.

    Carnivore; primary prey is Sitka black-tailed deer, secondarily beaver. Also take black bears, mustelids, other small

    mammals, birds, and salmon.

    Wolves generally show little preference for specific habitats, but tend to occur where prey are most abundant (Paradiso and

    Nowak 1982). They are found primarily in rugged coastal spruce-hemlock forests in areas frequented by their prey such as

    deer, beaver, mountain goat, small mammals, waterfowl, spawning salmon, and marine mammals (Kirchhoff 1992, Viereck

    and Little 1972, Smith et al. 1986, Wood 1990). Studies on Prince of Wales Islands indicate that wolves select for old-

    growth forest at low elevations for denning, pup-rearing, and wintering activities (Person 2001). During pup-rearing season,

    select for open-canopy and closed-canopy old-growth forest at low elevations. Before and after pup-rearing, select for

    closed-canopy old-growth forest and avoided seral forests and clearcuts. Documented denning site have been located in low

    elevation old-growth in proximity to freshwater sources (e.g., beaver ponds and streams) (Person 2001).


    Management Needs (-10 to 10)

    Monitoring Needs (-10 to 10)

    Research Needs (-10 to 10)

    Survey Needs (-10 to 10)

    Legal harvest by hunters and trappers accounts for most of the annual take, and is typically managed by adjusting season

    lengths, harvest limits, or restrictions on methods of take. In 1990, wolves in southeast Alaska were identified by a USDA

    Forest Service-sponsored interagency committee as a species for which there may be concerns about viability or distribution as

    a result of extensive timber harvesting in the Tongass National Forest. In December 1993, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation

    (Boulder, CO) and an independent biologist from Haines, AK, filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

    requesting that wolves in southeast Alaska be listed as a threatened subspecies pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of

    1973, as amended. The FWS ruled that listing was not warranted at this time, but added: However, it is clear by our analysis

    that without significant changes to the existing Tongass Land Management Plan, the long-term viability of the Alexander

    Archipelago wolf is seriously imperiled (Person et al. 1996). Management actions that address risks to wolf populations

    include modifying hunting and trapping regulations as necessary, limiting construction of new roads and effectively closing

    some existing ones, and modifying timber harvest strategies to minimize fragmentation and loss of critical deer winter range; it

    is not clear if these management actions are currently being employed.

    Not monitored.

    Factors affecting population size include: 1. Increased hunting and trapping of wolves resulting from increased hunter access

    to new logging roads. Hunting, trapping, and illegal killing accounts for a high percentage of mortality in wolves. 2.

    Extensive clearcut logging, which will reduce the amount of useable habitat for the Sitka black-tailed deer, the wolf's

    principal prey. 3. Population reductions resulting from increased wolf harvests and habitat fragmentation may enhance

    isolation of insular populations and result in an increased potential for inbreeding depression. The extent to which this factor

    actually affects wolf population viability is subject to debate but is suspected of contributing to the rapid population decline

    of wolves on Isle Royale.











    - variables measure current state of knowledge or extent of conservation efforts directed toward a given taxon. Higher

    action scores denote greater information needs due of lack of knowledge or conservation action. Action scores range

    from -40 (lower needs) to 40 (greater needs).

    1.2Biological Total:


  • Alaska Species Ranking System Summary Report - Gray wolf, Alexander Archipelago

    Habitat relationships are loosely defined; distribution mostly known from range maps and maps of species preferred prey

    item, Sitka black-tailed deer. Survey and harvest data from the mid-1960s until 1990 (Kirchhoff 1991).

    Supplemental Information


    - variables do not receive numerical scores. Instead, they that are used to sort taxa to answer specific

    biological or managerial questions.

    12Action Total:

    Range Map

    Harvest: Substantial, regulations

    Seasonal Occurrence: Year-round

    Taxonomic Significance: Subspecies

    % Global Range in Alaska: >10%

    Peripheral: No

    % Global Population in Alaska: >25%

    Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). 2007c. Alaska hunting, trapping and predator control regulations; fur

    animals, small game, unclassified game and deleterious exotic wildlife. Available online at:

    Ballard, W. B., J. S. Whitman and C. L. Gardner. 1987. Ecology of an exploited wolf population in south-central Alaska.

    Wildl. Monogr. 98. 54 p.

    Fuller, T. 1990. Dynamics of a declining white-tailed deer population in northcentral Minnesota. Wildl. Monogr. No.

    110. 37 p.

    Harbo, S. J. and F. C. Dean. 1983. Historical and current perspectives on wolf management in Alaska. Pp. 51-64. In:

    Carbyn, L.N. (ed.). Wolves in Canada and Alaska: their status, biology, and management. Canadian Wildlife Service Rep.

    Series, No. 45. Otta

    Hebert, D. M., J. Youds, R. Davies, H. Langin, D. Janz, and G. W. Smith. 1982. Preliminary investigations of the

    Vancouver Island wolf (Canis lupus crassodon) prey relationships. Pp. 54-70. In: Harrington, F.H., and P.C. Paquet

    (eds.). Wolves of the world


  • Alaska Species Ranking System Summary Report - Gray wolf, Alexander Archipelago

    Version date:

    Report authors: K. Walton, T. Gotthardt, and T. Fields

    Alaska Natural Heritage Program

    University of Alaska Anchorage

    Anchorage, AK 99501


    Kirchoff, M.D. 1991. Status, biology, and conservation concerns for the wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) in southeast Alaska.

    Report prepared for the US Forest Service. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation. Douglas,

    AK. 14 p.

    Kirchoff, M.D. 1992. The Alexander Archipelago Wolf. Pp 166-186 In: Suring, L.H., D.C. Crocker-Bedford, R.W.

    Flynn, C.L. Hale, G.C. Iverson, M.D. Kirchoff, T.E. Schenck II, L.C. Shea, K. Titus. A strategy for maintaining well-

    distributed, viable popula

    Kirchoff, M.D. and K.W. Pitcher. 1988. Deer pellet-group surveys in southeast Alaska. Douglas, AK: Alaska

    Department of Fish and Game; federal aid in wildlife restoration. Project W-22-6; job 2.9. 113 pp.

    Morgan, S.O. (ed.). 1990. Wolf. Annual report of survey-inventory activities: 1 July 1988-30 June 1989. Federal Aid in

    Wildlife Restoration. Proj. W-23-2. Study 14.0. Alaska Dept. Fish and Game, Div. Wildlife Conservation, Douglas, AK.

    158 p.

    NatureServe. 2007b. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 6.2. NatureServe,

    Arlington, Virginia. Available

    Paradiso, J. L. and R. M. Nowak. 1982. Wolves, Canis lupus and allies. Pages 460-474 in Wild Mammals of North

    America: Biology, Management and Economics (J. A. Chapman, and G. A. Feldhamer, eds.).

    Person, ADFG, personal communication

    Person, D. K. 2001. Alexander Archipelago wolves: ecology and population viability in a disturbed, insular landscape.

    Ph.D. thesis. University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    Person, D. K., M. Kirchoff, V. Van Ballenberghe, G. C. Iverson, and E. Grossman. 1996. The Alexander Archipelago

    wolf: a conservation assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-384. Portland, OR: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest

    Service, Pacific Northwest R

    Smith, C. A., E. L. Young, C. R. Land, and K. P. Bovee. 1986. Wolf-deer habitat relationships in southeast Alaska.

    Progress rep. Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, Proj. W-22-3, and W-22-4, Job 14.14. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game,

    Juneau, AK. 24 p.

    Smith, C. A., E. L. Young, C. R. Land, and K. P. Bovee. 1987. Predator-induced limitations on deer population growth in

    southeast Alaska. Final rep. Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, Proj. W-22-4, W-22-5, and W-22-6, Job 14.14R. Alaska

    Dept. of Fish an

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1997. Threatened status for the Alaska breeding population of the Stellers

    eider. Final rule. Federal Register 62:31748-31757.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2007a. Federal Subsistence Management Program: Wildlife Regulations.

    Available online at:

    Van Ballenberghe, V., A. W. Erickson and D. Byman. 1975. Ecology of the timber wolf in northeastern Minnesota.

    Wildl. Monogr. 43. 43 p.

    Viereck, L. A. and E. L. Little, Jr. 1972. Alaska trees and shrubs. Agriculture Handbook No. 410. U.S. Forest Service,

    Washington, DC. 265 p.

    Wood, R. R. 1990. Game management in unit 1A: In: Morgan, S.O., ed. Wolf. Juneau, AK. Alaska Department of Fish

    and Game; federal aid in wildlife restoration; annual report of survey-inventory activities; project W-23-2; study 12.0.


  • Alaska Species Ranking System Summary Report - Gray wolf, Alexander Archipelago

    For details on the development of the ASRS and criteria, please see: Gotthardt, T. A., K. M. Walton, and T. L. Fields. 2012.

    Setting Conservation Priorities for Alaska's Wildlife Action Plan. Alaska Natural Heritage Program, University of Alaska

    Anchorage, AK.



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