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Title 5 . Fish and Game
Chapter 92 . Statewide Provisions
Section 125. Predation Control Implementation Plans

5 AAC 92.125. Predation Control Implementation Plans

Predation control implementation plans are established in the following areas:

(1) a Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area is established and consists of those portions of the Kuskokwim River drainage within Unit 19(D)-East upstream from the Selatna River, but excluding the Selatna River drainage and the Black River drainage; notwithstanding any other provision in this title, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area consistent with the following control objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is, between the years 2004 and 2009, to reverse the decline in the moose population and initiate an increase toward the intensive management moose population objective of 6,000 - 8,000 moose with a sustainable annual harvest of 400 - 600 moose;

(B) when the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for up to five years beginning July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 19(D)-East; however, the commissioner may not reduce the wolf population within the Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area to fewer than 20 wolves; and

(ii) the commissioner must reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, by any means, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 19(D)-East during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080; however, if the wolf population is reduced to 20 wolves, the commissioner must stop all taking of wolves until the wolf population increases;

(D) annually, the department shall to the extent practicable, provide to the Board of Game at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose, caribou, black bear, brown bear, and wolf populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objective;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) the Board of Game determined the moose population in Unit 19(D)-East is important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose in Unit 19(D)-East consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area;

(ii) the moose population in Unit 19(D)-East contains migratory and lowland resident components; migratory moose move from the uplands of the Alaska Range foothills in adjacent Unit 19(C) to lowland areas in spring before calving; these moose remain in riparian and wetland areas of Unit 19(D)-East through midsummer, then return to the foothills in late summer; they are largely unavailable to local hunters during open hunting seasons;

(iii) within the 5,200 square mile portion of Unit 19(D)-East that was surveyed for wolves in 2001, the resident moose population is estimated to be 1,219 - 2,195 moose based on scientific aerial surveys in 2003;

(iv) moose hunting seasons and bag limits are more restrictive than in the mid-1970s; currently, the season is open for 25 days in September in the portion upstream of the drainage of the Selatna and Black Rivers, except the Takotna River drainage upstream of the village of Takotna and 20 days in September for the portion upstream of the village of Takotna with a bag limit of 1 bull for resident hunters only by registration permit; aircraft may not be used for hunting moose in most of the area, so few moose are taken by hunters residing outside the area; harvest by subsistence hunters in Unit 19(D)-East is estimated to be about 80-100 moose per year; this is less than half of the desired harvest level;

(v) habitat quality in Unit 19(D)-East is not currently a primary limiting factor; wildfires are common and fire suppression efforts are limited; moose population in Unit 19(D)-East (8,513 square miles) is currently estimated at 2,716 moose based on extrapolations from the smaller 5,240 square mile moose study area; all indications are that habitat in this area is easily capable of sustaining three to four times the present level of the moose population; further efforts to increase moose populations through habitat manipulation would be of little value;

(vi) black and brown bear densities have not been estimated, but are thought to be low to moderate; the impacts of bear predation on adult moose are thought to be low to moderate, but the impacts of black bear predation on calf moose is know to be a significant component of mortality;

(vii) the wolf population in Unit 19(D)-East was estimated using an intensive aerial survey in February 2001; the population in a 5,200 square mile portion of Unit 19(D)-East was estimated at a minimum of 103 wolves; that is approximately 1.9 wolves per 100 square miles;

(viii) available moose and wolf population estimates suggest the current moose-to-wolf ratio is approximately 12:1 to 21:1; if the wolf population has increased since the 2001 survey, moose to wolf ratios could be lower; with limited numbers of caribou and other prey in Unit 19(D)-East, wolf predation rates on resident moose are high; moose can be expected to persist at low densities with little expectation of increase unless moose calf and adult survival increase;

(ix) several severe winters in the late 1980s and early 1990s have contributed to the moose population decline by reducing forage availability and increasing vulnerability of moose to wolves;

(x) hunting and trapping of wolves in the area have not exceeded sustainable levels; the department can continue trapper education efforts in local villages, but previous trapper education programs in the area had no measurable effect on wolf harvest; economic factors are a major obstacle to reducing wolf numbers through hunting and trapping; if the wolf population is to be reduced to achieve prey population objectives, measures beyond normal hunting and trapping will have to be employed;

(2) a Unit 20(A) wolf predation control area is established and consists of Unit 20(A), except for the following areas: the Fort Wainwright and Fort Greely Military Reservations, Clear Air Force Station, and that portion of Unit 20(A) south and west of a line beginning at the east end of the Moody Bridge where it intersects with the Unit 20(A) boundary, then north along the boundary of Unit 20(A) to a point exactly one mile east of the Parks Highway, then south and parallel to the Parks Highway at a distance of one mile east, to the southern boundary of Unit 20(A); in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 20(A) wolf predation control area consistent with the following program objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is to reverse the decline of the Delta caribou herd and increase the mid-summer caribou population to 5,000 - 7,000 with a sustainable annual harvest of 300 - 700 caribou by the year 2009;

(B) if the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for a five-year period beginning July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 20(A); however, the commissioner may not reduce the late-winter wolf population within the Unit 20(A) wolf predation control area to fewer than 75 wolves; and

(ii) the commissioner must reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 20(A) during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided in 5 AAC 92.080;

(D) annually, the department, to the extent practicable, shall provide to the Board of Game, at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objective;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) consumptive use of caribou, moose, and sheep has been a priority human use of wildlife in Unit 20(A) for decades; human demand for harvest of these species remains high and is reflected in management goals for maximizing opportunity to hunt moose, caribou, and sheep in this area; management objectives for population size and annual harvest were established to provide for conservation and annual sustained yields of the Delta caribou herd, consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation, and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area;

(ii) ecological relationships and predator-prey dynamics in Unit 20(A) are among the best understood in Alaska; extensive field studies and decades of experience indicate that management of predation and harvests by humans is necessary to achieve the management objectives for Unit 20(A);

(iii) a temporary reduction in wolf numbers is necessary to enhance survival of prey, reverse population declines, and achieve management objectives in Unit 20(A); although wolf predation may not be a significant factor initiating declines in prey abundance or productivity, once started by any other factor such as weather, declines in prey may be accelerated and deepened by wolf predation; no reasonable alternative to a temporary reduction in wolf numbers exists if the management objectives are to be achieved in a timely manner;

(iv) wolf population reduction was implemented in Unit 20(A) from spring 1976 through 1982 and October 1993 through November 1994; immediately following the initial wolf reduction, caribou and moose survival increased significantly; populations of both species grew through the 1980s, reaching peaks in 1989 of about 11,000 each from lows of about 1,800 and 2,800, respectively, in 1976; although sheep numbers also increased during this period, the direct effects of wolf reduction on sheep survival are not clearly known; following the end of control in spring 1982, the wolf population recovered to 220 - 295 by fall 1992 due to an expanded prey base during the 1980s; following the second wolf reduction, caribou calf survival and numbers increased; following the end of control, the wolf population recovered from an estimated 175 wolves in 1994 to 244 by 1998;

(v) during the mid-1980s, the number of caribou and moose harvested by hunters was within the management objectives outlined for that period; during the late 1980s and early 1990s, caribou harvests declined concurrent with the caribou population decline that was caused by reduced productivity and survival; the caribou season was shortened by emergency order in February 1991 and remained closed through 1995; hunting by drawing permit (up to 200 permits) for bull caribou only was resumed in 1996;

(vi) in spite of eliminating hunting, the Delta caribou herd continued to decline; the results of a June 1993 census indicated a population of 3,700 - 4,000 caribou in the Delta herd; the major causes for this decline were adverse weather and increased wolf predation; of these two factors, only wolf predation can be effectively managed; the results of a June 2003 census indicated a population of 2,500 - 2,600 caribou in the Delta herd; unless wolf predation is reduced, it is expected that the Delta caribou herd will decline to 1,500 - 2,000 caribou by 2009;

(vii) based on past experience in Unit 20(A) and elsewhere, aerial shooting by department personnel from helicopters is the most humane, selective, and effective method to reduce wolf numbers and is authorized;

(3) a Unit 20(D) wolf predation control area is established and consists of Unit 20(D), except for the portions of Unit 20(D) within the Ft. Greely Military Reservation and within the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area described in (4) of this section; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 20(D) wolf predation control area consistent with the following program objectives, methods, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objectives for the program are as follows:

(i) to increase the Unit 20(D) fall moose population to 8,000 - 10,000 moose with a sustainable harvest of 500 - 700 moose per year; and

(ii) to reverse the decline of the Macomb caribou herd and increase the fall population to 600 - 800 caribou with a sustainable harvest of 30 - 50 caribou per year;

(B) if the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or a wolf population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph;

(i) for up to five years beginning July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 20(D); however, the commissioner may not reduce the wolf population within the Unit 20(D) wolf predation control area to fewer than 25 percent of the early-winter wolf population before initiation of the program; and

(ii) the commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 20(D) during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided in 5 AAC 92.080; however, if the wolf population is reduced to 25 percent of the early-winter, pre-control size, the commissioner shall stop all taking of wolves until the wolf population increases;

(D) annually, the department shall, to the extent practicable, provide to the Board of Game at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) consumptive use of moose and caribou has been a priority human use of wildlife in Unit 20(D) for decades; human demand for harvest of these species remains high in Unit 20(D); the board determined the moose population in Unit 20(D) and the Macomb caribou herd are important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose in Unit 20(D) and the Macomb caribou herd consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area; these objectives are to have a moose population of 8,000 - 10,000 with an annual sustainable harvest of 500 - 700 moose and to have 600 - 800 caribou in the Macomb herd with an annual sustainable harvest of 30 - 50 caribou;

(ii) the Unit 20(D) moose population was estimated to be 6,002 - 7,770 moose in fall 2003 based on Geostatistical Population Estimation; the annual harvest from Unit 20(D) has averaged about 204 moose per year for the past five years; both the population size and harvest are well below the management objective levels;

(iii) the moose population in Unit 20(D) is divided into three subpopulations for management purposes: northern Unit 20(D), southeastern Unit 20(D), and southwestern Unit 20(D);

(iv) the northern Unit 20(D) moose population is estimated to be 2,070 - 2,719 moose; moose calf survival to fall was 18 calves to 100 cows in 1999; moose habitat quality is moderate in northern Unit 20(D), with extensive areas of subalpine habitat, lowland habitat associated with several major rivers and creeks, and numerous areas burned by wildfire within the last 1 - 30 years; the resident and nonresident hunting season is September 1 - 15 for any bull; during the last five years, an average of 261 hunters per year killed an average of 67 moose per year;

(v) the southwestern Unit 20(D) moose population is estimated to be 2,655 - 4,689 moose; moose calf survival to fall was 32 calves to 100 cows in 2003; moose habitat quality is good with extensive areas of subalpine habitat, several major wildfires in the 5 - 15 years, and large areas of cleared land that are revegetating with moose browse; the resident hunting season is September 1 - 15 for one bull with spike-fork or 50-inch antlers or antlers with four or more brow tines on at least one side; the nonresident season is September 5 - 15 for one bull with 50-inch antlers or antlers with four or more brow tines on at least one side; the Delta Junction Management Area and the Bison Range Youth Hunt Management Area is hunting by drawing permit within this portion of Unit 20(D); during the last five years, an average of 432 hunters per year killed an average of 118 moose per year;

(vi) the southeastern Unit 20(D) moose population is estimated to be 544 - 1,162 moose; moose calf survival to fall was 24 calves to 100 cows in 2003; moose habitat quality is good with extensive areas of subalpine habitat and lowland habitat along the Tanana River; the resident hunting season is September 1 - 15 for any bull; there is no open season for nonresidents, except within a portion of the Robertson River drainage; the Macomb Plateau Controlled Use Area within this portion of Unit 20(D) restricts motorized access for hunting, and makes moose hunting difficult in much of this area; during the last five years, an average of 47 hunters per year killed an average of 13 moose per year during the general hunting season;

(vii) the Unit 20(D) grizzly bear population can be estimated by extrapolation from bear research data collected in adjacent units; the extrapolated estimate for Unit 20(D) is 181 - 210 total grizzly bears, with 143 - 176 bears older than two years; the grizzly bear estimate for southeastern and southwestern Unit 20(D) combined is 76 - 86 total bears, including 51 - 58 bears older than two years; in northern Unit 20(D), the grizzly bear population is estimated to contain 105 - 124 total bears with 92 - 109 bears older than two years; human-caused grizzly bear mortality has averaged 14 bears per year for the last five years;

(viii) black bears occur throughout Unit 20(D) at low to mid elevation; no estimate of black bear density or population size can be made; both black bears and grizzly bears are known to prey on moose in Unit 20(D), but the extent of predation has not been measured; human-caused black bear mortality has averaged 22 bears per year for the last five years;

(ix) the Macomb caribou herd declined significantly in size from 800 caribou in fall 1990 to 458 in fall 1993; the herd increased to 550 - 575 by fall 2003 with a ratio of 19 calves to 100 cows;

(x) winter weather in Unit 20(D) has been moderate for the past five to eight years;

(xi) extensive research in Alaska and northern Canada demonstrates the potential for naturally regulated wolf and bear populations to regulate moose numbers at densities well below the forage-carrying capacity of the habitat; potential harvest from such moose populations is low; it is likely that the moose population in Unit 20(D) fits this pattern, particularly in northern Unit 20 (D); unless combined wolf and bear predation is reduced, the moose population will not increase to objective levels in spite of mild weather, abundant high quality forage, and restrictive hunter harvest;

(xii) bear regulations have been liberalized in portions of Unit 20(D) for several years; in parts of the unit, grizzly numbers are probably reduced somewhat as a result of hunter harvest and other human-caused mortality; no corresponding increase in moose or caribou numbers or harvestable surplus is evident as a result;

(xiii) the fall 2002 wolf population is estimated to be 88 - 98 based on aerial surveys, incidental observations, sealing records, and interviews with knowledgeable trappers; an average of 38 (41 percent of the population) wolves per year have been taken by hunting and trapping during the past five years; this is below the harvest necessary to result in a population reduction; in addition several packs in northern Unit 20(D) were treated during the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Program and still contain sterilized pairs of wolves;

(xiv) if local hunters and trappers do not achieve adequate wolf reductions, the commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal under AS 16.05.783 ; if this is unsuccessful in achieving adequate reduction of wolf numbers, the commissioner may implement aerial shooting by the department;

(4) a Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area is established in that portion of Unit 20(B), including the Salcha River drainage upstream from and including the South Fork of the Salcha River, plus the Chena River drainage upstream from Van Curlers bar; that portion of Unit 20(D), including the Goodpaster drainage upstream from and including Central Creek, the entire drainage of the South Fork of the Goodpaster River, the Healy River drainage, and Billy and Sand Creeks; that portion of Unit 20(E), including the Middle Fork and North Fork drainages of the Fortymile River upstream from and including Hutchinson Creek, plus the Mosquito Fork drainage upstream from and including Gold Creek, plus the Seventymile drainage, plus the Mission Creek drainage; the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area does not include those lands that are part of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and the Fortymile Wild and Scenic River corridor; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area consistent with the following program objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is to stimulate recovery of the Fortymile caribou herd to its traditional range and to benefit the people who value the herd and its ecosystem using nonlethal techniques recommended by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team; these nonlethal techniques are to provide conditions for the Fortymile herd to grow at a moderate annual rate of five percent to 10 percent between 1997 and spring 2001 and provide a sustainable harvest of at least two percent of herd size (greater than 560) following the control program;

(B) wolf trapping by the public within the control area is governed by 5 AAC 84.270 and not by this section; however, wolf trapping shall be closed under 5 AAC 92.110 if the wolf population is reduced to less than 30 wolves; to protect fertility controlled wolves, the department shall continue to maintain close contact with local wolf trappers about the location of treated wolves; trappers will be asked to voluntarily avoid trapping wolves in fertility controlled territories; emergency closures will be used only if voluntary compliance is not obtained;

(C) if the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts the program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for up to four years beginning in October 1997, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area; however, the commissioner may not reduce the wolf population within the area to less than 30 wolves in 15 packs and may not implement fertility control or translocate packs that primarily range within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve; between five and seven packs may be scheduled for nonlethal treatment each year;

(ii) the commissioner may reduce the wolf population using only nonlethal means endorsed by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team as follows: beginning in October 1997, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area by translocating and sterilizing wolves to regulate productivity and to minimize immigration of new wolves into the area; if translocation is used, groups of up to five wolves will be moved at least 100 miles to remote sites within the winter ranges of the Nelchina, Porcupine, and Western Arctic caribou herds where human use of caribou is below sustainable levels, or to the Kenai Peninsula to increase genetic diversity of the current, relatively isolated Kenai wolf population; release sites should have prey densities comparable to or greater than prey densities in the Fortymile range; to ensure that sterilization does not interfere with gonadal cycling, males may be vasectomized using either surgical or chemical techniques; females may be tubally ligated if ongoing studies in the Yukon Territory, Canada indicate this is feasible and safe; surgical sterilization shall be performed only by a qualified veterinary surgeon; other techniques proven to more effective and humane may be used after review by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team and approval by the Board of Game;

(D) the department shall, to the extent practicable, provide the Board of Game at each spring meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities and population status reports for Fortymile caribou, wolves, grizzly and black bears, moose, and sheep;

(E) based upon the report in (D) of this paragraph, recommendations for program changes, if necessary, shall be made by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team and the department;

(F) wildlife population and human-use information, and justifications for the program are as follows:

(i) the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan (October 1995), incorporated by reference in this paragraph, was developed by a diverse group of state and Yukon Territory, Canada (Yukon) residents and representatives from state, federal, and territorial wildlife managing agencies; the team's goal was to develop management steps acceptable to most residents of this state and the Yukon that would restore the Fortymile Caribou herd to its traditional range thereby benefiting the ecosystem, including residents and visitors to the area;

(ii) traditionally the Fortymile caribou herd has been an important subsistence resource for residents throughout interior Alaska and the western Yukon; the Board of Game determined that the Fortymile caribou herd is important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the Board of Game established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of Fortymile caribou consistent with multiple use, principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and wildlife species in the area, and the intent of the 1995 Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan;

(iii) the June 2003 herd estimate was 43,375, a 92 percent increase from the 1995 estimate of 22,558; population trend is increasing at 8 - 10 percent annually; currently, the herd ranges within an area of approximately 19,300 square miles in east central Alaska and in the adjacent Yukon; only a small percentage of the herd moves into the Yukon each year; the Fortymile Caribou herd was estimated to exceed 500,000 caribou during the 1920s and numbered at least 50,000 during the 1950s and early 1960s; traditionally, the herd ranged from Ft. Selkirk, Yukon Territory to west of the Steese Highway; current range use is less than 25 percent of the range use described in the 1920s;

(iv) in 1990, harvest was reduced to below sustainable levels and was not a limiting factor to herd growth; harvests were limited to two percent of the population, up to 450 caribou; the bag limit was set at one bull; during 1990 - 1995, harvest averaged about 1.5 percent of the midsummer herd size; historically, hunter interest in the herd has been high; even during the period of restrictive harvest in the early 1990s, 1,700 to 2,100 people hunted the herd annually; as part of the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan, the harvest quota was further reduced to 150 bulls, including up to 100 during the fall and a minimum of 50 during the winter; hunters were asked to reduce their efforts to harvest Fortymile caribou during the life of the plan; during 1996 - 2000, hunters complied with this request and an average of 778 hunters annually harvested about 0.5 percent of the mid-summer herd population; in 2000, the board endorsed the 2001 - 2006 Fortymile Harvest Management Plan; since 2001, an average of 3,239 hunters annually harvested about 1.8 percent of the mid-summer herd size;

(v) habitat quality and disease are not limiting factors; range condition has been assessed based on the percent of lichens in the herd's winter diet; samples obtained since 1991 indicate the winter range used by the herd is still in excellent condition; in addition, most of the traditional winter range not used since the early 1970s is still available; pregnancy rates (averaging greater than 80 percent annually) indicate the herd is in good nutritional condition; calf weights in October have been relatively high and stable compared with nutritionally stressed herds; blood samples collected from the Fortymile caribou herd indicate there are no infectious diseases present in the herd; land managers and owners within the herd's traditional range have been contacted about maintaining caribou range for the future;

(vi) before removal or sterilization, the 1995 fall wolf population in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area was estimated to be 125-135 wolves using radiotelemetry and track surveys; average fall pack size was 6.9, ranging between 4 and 13 wolves; the average annual wolf harvest within the area from winter 1992 - 1993 and winter 1994 - 1995 was 18 wolves (14 percent), well below sustainable levels; during winter 1995 - 1996, the harvest increased to 73 wolves (56 percent), which was high enough to reduce the area's wolf population; in winter 2003 - 2004, 9 of 15 sterilized pairs were still in place and the remaining 6 pack territories had been taken over by new packs averaging 6 - 8 wolves each;

(vii) wolf predation has consistently been a major cause of death among Fortymile caribou; during 1994 through April 1998, wolves caused an average of 49 percent of the annual calf mortality and between May 1991 and April 1998, wolves caused 89 percent of the total adult mortality; during May 1998 through April 2002, wolves caused an average of 39 percent of the annual calf mortality and 74 percent of the total adult mortality;

(viii) grizzly and black bear densities and population trends within most of the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area have not been affected by harvest; most of this area is difficult to access and historically bear harvest in this area has been well below sustainable levels; from May through April 1998, grizzly and black bears caused an average of 30 and four percent of the annual calf mortality, respectively; from May 1998 through April 2002, grizzly and black bears caused an average of 32 and seven percent of the annual calf mortality, respectively;

(ix) wolves and grizzly bears were major factors limiting the Fortymile caribou herd to a relatively low, stable population during 1990-1996, compared with annual growth rates of 7-10 percent in the 1980s when environmental conditions were favorable and predation rates were lower; the herd's potential to grow is indicated by past herd estimates numbering in the hundreds of thousands; range quality and quantity, herd condition and productivity, and human harvest are not major factors limiting herd growth; the most significant factor limiting herd growth was predation on calves; without increasing caribou calf survival, the herd was predicted to remain stable during most years and show only low to moderate growth during years of favorable weather; under pretreatment management, herd recovery to traditional ranges in interior Alaska and the western Yukon, was expected to be slow; by temporarily reducing predation, the herd growth was expected to be a minimum of 5-10 percent except during years of unfavorable weather conditions; between 1997 and 2003 when control implementation activities were conducted, herd growth averaged 8 - 10 percent annually;

(x) reducing a wolf population by 69-85 percent has resulted in 16-17 percent average annual increases in the caribou numbers in central Alaska and the east central Yukon; the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team recommended nonlethal techniques including wolf fertility control and wolf translocation as well as legal public wolf trapping to reach this level of reduction; each management step is designed with a specific purpose; trapping is acknowledged to potentially reduce the size of the packs within the control area so that nonlethal techniques are more economically and logistically feasible, translocation of subordinate wolves may be necessary to reduce the pack to the alpha breeding pair; fertility control is necessary to maintain the wolf population at a low level and to keep new wolves from colonizing the area;

(xi) the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team requested that criteria be adopted for early termination of the implementation plan if nonlethal control appears ineffective; the following criteria were agreed to by the team: if the herd failed to grow 10 percent between June 1998 and June 2000, and the wolves killed more than 3,500 caribou each year during 1998 and 1999, then the program would be terminated; between June 1998 and June 2000 the herd grew by 12 percent;

(xii) the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team reemphasized that the conservation of caribou habitat should take priority over conflicting uses that jeopardize the herd recovery;

(5) a Unit 13 wolf predation control area is established and consists of all lands within Units 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and that portion of Unit 13(E) east of the Alaska Railroad, except federal lands; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the wolf predation control area consistent with the following program objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objectives of the program are to stop the decline of the moose population within the wolf predation control area and to maintain the following objectives during fall composition surveys:

Unit Objectives Present (Fall 2004)

13(A) 1.0 cows per square mile 0.8 cows per square mile

/25 calves per 100 cows /22 calves per 100 cows

13(B) 1.2 cows per square mile 0.8 cows per square mile

/30 calves per 100 cows /23 calves per 100 cows

13(C) 1.5 cows per square mile 0.7 cows per square mile

/30 calves per 100 cows /10 calves per 100 cows

13(E) 0.9 cows per square mile 0.6 cows per square mile

/30 calves per 100 cows /24 calves per 100 cows

(B) when the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program, the program may only be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives of (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for a five-year period beginning July 1, 2000, and, following readoption, for a second five-year period beginning July 1, 2005, the commissioner may reduce the number of wolves in the wolf predation control area; however, the commissioner may not reduce the late-winter population of Unit 13 to less than 135 wolves;

(ii) the commissioner may only reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(iii) the commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land-and-shoot permits as a method of wolf removal;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in the wolf predation control area during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080; however wolf hunting and trapping will be closed by emergency order if the population is reduced below the objectives specified in (B)(i) of this paragraph;

(D) annually, the department is requested to provide to the Board of Game, at its spring meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objective;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) high levels of consumptive use of moose and caribou have been a priority human use of wildlife in Unit 13 for decades; human demand for harvest of these species remains high and is reflected in management goals for the unit; more than 6,000 hunters pursue moose in Unit 13 and 8,000 people received Tier II caribou permits in 1999; in 2004, only 2,000 Tier II permits for caribou were issued and 3,000 moose hunters participated in the moose hunts;

(ii) habitat does not appear to be the primary limiting factor for moose populations now, and is not expected to limit moose populations at proposed objectives; although wolves and grizzly bears are significant sources of mortality for moose, wolf predation occurs year-round while grizzly bears prey primarily on calves in the spring; black bears in this area are an insignificant source of mortality; harvest of predators by humans is necessary to achieve moose management objectives;

(iii) a reduction in wolf numbers is necessary to enhance survival of prey species, halt population declines and achieve population objectives in the wolf predation control area; during the 1970s and 1980s, same-day-airborne hunting of wolves by the public, at little or no cost to the department, effectively kept the wolf population at levels well below present levels, and ungulate populations prospered; the department's current spring population objective in the unit is 135 wolves; the projected Spring 2005 population for Unit 13 is 225 wolves;

(iv) bans on same-day-airborne hunting of wolves in 1987 and again in 1996, increased the wolf population in Unit 13 and decreased the moose population, despite favorable winter weather; with poor calf recruitment and high wolf numbers, the decline in the moose population cannot be expected to stop without a reduction in wolf predation;

(6) a mainland Unit 16(B) wolf predation control area is established and consists of all non-federal lands within the mainland portion of Unit 16(B), in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110; the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the wolf predation control area consistent with the following program objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) the Board of Game determined the moose population in mainland Unit 16(B) is important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose in mainland Unit 16(B) consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area; the objectives of the program are to halt the decline of the moose population within the wolf predation control area and to increase the fall (post-hunt) population to the intensive management objective of 6,500 - 7,500 moose providing a sustainable annual harvest of 310 - 600 moose;

(ii) high levels of consumptive use of moose has been a priority human use of wildlife in mainland Unit 16(B) for at least 40 years; human demand for harvest of moose remains high and is reflected in management objectives for this unit; during the years 1995 - 2000, more than 700 hunters annually pursued moose in this unit and harvested an average of 187 bulls; each year, 260 of over 1,100 applicants received any-bull Tier II permits and harvested an additional 81 moose (n = 28 - 103); during the 1980s (1983 - 88) an average of 1,315 hunters reported harvesting 485 moose annually;

(iii) the mainland Unit 16(B) moose population was estimated in fall 2001 to be 3,423 - 4,321 moose, based on aerial surveys from within the unit; moose calf survival was estimated during fall composition surveys of between 10 - 14 calves per 100 cows; the current population size is below the intensive management objective;

(iv) harvest of predators by humans is necessary to achieve moose management objectives; wolves, black bears, and brown bears each are significant sources of mortality for moose; wolf predation occurs year-round, while black and brown bears prey primarily on calves in the spring;

(v) winter snow depth has been considered severe in portions of the unit in 13 of the past 18 years; frequent deep-snow winters have likely contributed to low calf production and over-winter survival; declines in moose productivity and winter survival initiated by weather may be accelerated by wolf predation; deep snow increases wolf predation on adult moose; deep snow persisting to spring may increase brown bear predation on moose;

(vi) the decline in the mainland Unit 16(B) moose population can be attributed to poor calf survival, high adult mortality, and the inability of the population to recover from the impacts of frequent deep snow winters; unless wolf and bear predation is reduced, the moose population will not increase to objective levels in spite of mild weather, adequate preferred forage, and restriction on hunter harvest; a reduction in wolf numbers, in conjunction with a reduction in bear numbers through liberalized bear hunting opportunities, is necessary to halt the moose population decline and to achieve population objectives; no reasonable alternative to a temporary reduction in wolf and bear numbers exists if the management objectives are to be achieved in a timely manner;

(vii) a reduction in wolf numbers, in conjunction with a reduction in bear numbers through liberalized bear hunting opportunities, are necessary to enhance survival of mainland Unit 16(B) moose, to halt the population decline, and to achieve population objectives in the wolf predation control area; during the 1970s and 1980s, same-day-airborne hunting of wolves by the public, at little or no cost to the department, effectively kept the wolf population at levels well below present levels, and moose populations were increasing or stable; trapper and hunter harvests in the last 10 years has averaged less than 2.5 wolves per trapper and hunter; the current spring population objective in the control area is 22 - 45 wolves in 3 - 5 packs; the projected spring 2003 population for mainland Unit 16(B) is 100 - 160 wolves in 16 or more packs, and the projected fall 2003 pre-hunt population is 160 - 220 wolves;

(B) the geographical area is described as the mainland portion of Game Management Unit 16(B);

(C) wildlife population and human use information:

(i) the moose population in mainland Unit 16(B) is composed of subpopulations that reside wholly in the unit; however, a subpopulation from the flanks of Mount Yenlo and in the upper Lake Creek drainage mixes in winter with moose from Unit 16(A) in the Kahiltna River drainage, and a subpopulation from the flanks of Mount Susitna and the drainages of Alexander Creek and Lower Yentna River winters with moose from Units 14(A), 14(B), and 16(A) in the lower Yentna and Susitna rivers; all subpopulations are accessible by hunters at varying levels; the greatest access is during the winter hunting season;

(ii) habitat does not appear to be a significant factor in calf survival, or limiting the moose population, and is not expected to limit the moose population at objective levels; while the majority of the unit is covered with mature forests, moose habitat has changed little since the high moose densities of the early 1980s; prescribed burning has been the only economically viable option for improving moose habitat and opportunities to conduct controlled burns are limited by climate, access, and privately owned lands with structures dispersed throughout the unit;

(iii) black and brown bears occur throughout mainland Unit 16(B); during the early 1990s, the black bear population size was estimated at 1,300 - 1,700 bears, and the brown bear population in mainland Unit 16(B) was estimated at 530 - 1,050 bears; since then, anecdotal evidence suggests the brown bear population has been stable or has increased, while the black bear population has remained stable or has decreased; black and brown bears are known to prey on moose, but the extent of predation in this unit has not been measured; it is unlikely that bear harvest by hunters will be high enough to result in the moose population reaching population objectives;

(iv) beginning in fall 2001, the annual allowable moose harvest fell below the amount necessary to provide subsistence harvest levels established by the board for mainland Unit 16(B); all general season hunting was eliminated and hunting opportunity became limited to Tier II resident permittees; during 1996 - 2000, the annual harvest averaged 283 moose per year (range 242 - 318), including moose taken by Tier II subsistence permit; in 2001, a Tier II hunt harvested 120 moose; current harvest levels are below the intensive management objective;

(D) the wolf population in mainland Unit 16(B) for fall 2002 was estimated to be 140 - 200 wolves, based on aerial surveys, incidental pilot observations, sealing records, and interviews with knowledgeable trappers; harvest by hunters and trappers has increased annually from 15 in 1997 - 98 to a record 58 in 2001 - 02; available moose and wolf population estimates suggest the fall 2001 moose-to-wolf ratio could be as low as 17:1; at this ratio wolves, a relatively high bear density, and frequent deep snow winters combined are expected to continue to depress moose numbers;

(E) when the commissioner, or the commissioner's designee, conducts a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program, the program shall be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) the commissioner may reduce the number of wolves in the wolf predation control area; however, the commissioner may not reduce the late-winter population in Unit 16(B) to less than 20 wolves;

(ii) the commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(iii) the commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land-and-shoot permits as a method of wolf removal;

(iv) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in the wolf predation control area during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080;

(F) annually, the department shall provide to the Board of Game, at its spring meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objective;

(G) the provisions of the wolf predation control program in this paragraph do not apply after June 30, 2008;

(7) a Central Kuskokwim wolf predation control area is established and consists of Units 19(A) and 19(B); this predator control program does not apply to any National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge lands not approved by the federal agencies; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in Units 19(A) and 19(B) wolf predation control area consistent with the following objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is to initiate and increase toward the intensive management moose population objective of 13,500 - 16,500 moose with a sustainable annual harvest of 750 - 950 moose; progress towards increasing the moose population and sustainable harvest shall be evaluated every two years or no later than before the expiration of this wolf predation control program and a recommendation shall be made, to the extent practicable, to the Board of Game concerning the need for continuation of the program;

(B) when the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for up to five years beginning July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 19(A) and 19(B); however, the commissioner may not reduce the wolf population within the area to fewer than 50 wolves;

(ii) the commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, by any means, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(iii) the commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal pursuant to AS 16.05.783 ;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 19(A) and 19(B) during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080; however, if the wolf population is reduced to 50 wolves, the commissioner shall stop all taking of wolves until the wolf population increases;

(D) annually, the department shall to the extent practicable, provide to the board at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose, caribou, black bear, brown bear, and wolf populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objective;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) the board determined the moose population in Unit 19(A) and 19(B) is important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose in Unit 19(A) and 19(B) consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area;

(ii) the wolf predation control area is established as part of the overall program to rebuild the moose population in Units 19(A) and 19(B) recommended in the Central Kuskokwim Moose Management Plan (CKMMP); the mission of the CKMMP is to restore and maintain the central Kuskokwim moose population to ensure reasonable subsistence opportunities, provide for high levels of human consumptive use, provide for a diversity of other uses of the moose resource, manage predators and moose habitat, and maintain the overall health of the ecosystem;

(iii) the Central Kuskokwim Moose Management Planning Committee (CKMC) considered many alternatives to rebuild the moose population in Units 19(A) and (B), including reducing moose harvest, habitat improvement, reducing wolf predation through wolf hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits and reducing black bear and grizzly bear predation; the CKMMP includes recommendations involving moose harvest reductions, habitat management, wolf predation control, brown bear and black bear hunting, public education needs, and acquisition of additional biological data; the CKMC also consider alternative methods of wolf predation control in addition to issuing permits to the public for aerial shooting or land and shoot wolf removal; ground based trapping is not likely to achieve the desired reduction in wolf numbers due to the remoteness of the region and the limited number of trappers relative to the size of the area;

(iv) the department has conducted two moose density estimates within Units 19(A) and 19(B) since 1998; one estimate was in late March 1998 in Unit 19(A) within a portion of the Holitna Drainage; the estimated density was 1.25 (plus or minus 14 percent at an 80 percent confidence interval) moose per square mile; this yielded a population estimate of 2,183 (plus or minus 314) moose; the second density estimate was completed in March 2001, in the Aniak River drainage in Unit 19(A); the area covered was 1,731 square miles and the estimated density was 0.70 (plus or minus 17 percent at an 80 percent confidence interval) moose per square mile; the resulting population estimate was 1,200 moose (plus or minus 204); using those two surveys and extrapolating to the rest of the units we currently estimate the entire Units 19(A) and 19(B) moose population of 6,800 - 11,300 moose (0.38 - 0.63 moose per square mile);

(v) moose hunting seasons and bag limits have been reduced in Units 19(A) and 19(B); the nonresident season in Unit 19(A) has been closed; resident hunters in Unit 19(A) will be required to have a registration permit; the resident season in Unit 19(B) has been reduced by five days and the nonresident season in Unit 19(B) has been reduced by 10 days; resident hunters with general harvest tickets in Unit 19(B) are restricted to spike-fork bulls or bulls with 50-inch antlers or antlers with four or more brow tines on one side; resident hunters in Unit 19(B) must possess a registration permit to shoot any antlered bull; nonresident hunters are restricted from hunting within two miles on either side of major tributaries of the Kuskokwim River in portions of Unit 19(B) and may only take bulls with 50-inch antlers or antlers with four or more brow tines on one side; the resident winter moose hunting seasons in Unit 19(A) have been eliminated to reduce overall harvest and eliminate incidental cow harvest to improve the reproduction potential of the population; the overall reported number of moose taken in Unit 19(A) has declined by over 60 percent from 168 in 1994 - 1995 to 67 during 2002 - 2003; overall reported harvest in Unit 19(B) has decreased from 163 in 1994 - 1995 to 81 taken in 2002 - 2003;

(vi) the estimated moose population an harvest levels in Units 19(A) and 19(B), including unreported harvest, are well below the intensive management population and harvest objectives established for the units;

(vii) habitat quality in Units 19(A) and 19(B) is not currently believed to be a significant factor limiting the moose population; wildfires are common and fire suppression efforts are limited; all indications are that habitat in this area is capable of sustaining the higher densities need to meet the intensive management objectives; effort to increase moose populations through habitat manipulation would likely be of little value;

(viii) black and brown bear densities have not been estimated in Units 19(A) and 19(B), but based on observations of local residents and anecdotal information are thought to be moderate to high; research from Unit 19(D)-East suggests that black and brown bear predation is likely a factor that contributes to limiting the moose population in Units 19(A) and 19(B);

(ix) the wolf population in Units 19(A) and 19(B) was estimated using an extrapolation technique combined with anecdotal observation; the population in the 18,000 square mile entire area is estimated at 340 - 455 wolves in 45 - 53 packs; that is approximately 1.9 - 2.5 wolves per 100 square miles; wolves are believed to be major limiting factor for moose;

(x) available moose and wolf population estimates suggest the current moose-to-wolf ratio is between 15:1 and 33:1; if the moose population has decreased since the 2001 survey, moose-to-wolf ratios could be lower; with the influence of the Mulchatna caribou herd and other prey in Units 19(A) and 19(B), wolf predation rates on resident moose are high; moose can be expected to persist at low densities with little expectation of increase, unless moose calf and adult survival increase;

(xi) hunting and trapping of wolves in the area have not exceeded sustainable levels; the department can continue trapper education efforts in local villages, but previous trapper education programs in the area had little effect on wolf harvest; a regulation adopted in 2002 to allow wolves to be taken with the use of snowmachines has not significantly increased wolf harvest; economic factors are a major obstacle to reducing wolf numbers through hunting and trapping; if the wolf population is to be reduced to achieve prey population objectives, measures beyond normal hunting and trapping will have to be employed;

(8) an Upper Yukon/Tanana wolf and brown bear predation control area is established and consists of all of Units 12 (approximately 10,000 square miles) and 20(E) (approximately 10,680 square miles); this predator control program does not apply to any National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge lands not approved by the federal agencies; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110 and 5 AAC 92.115, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf and brown bear population reduction or population regulation program in the Upper Yukon/Tanana wolf and brown bear predation control area consistent with the following control objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is to initiate an increase toward the intensive management moose population objectives of 4,000 - 6,000 moose with a sustainable annual harvest of 250 - 450 in Unit 12, and 8,000 - 10,000 moose with a sustainable annual harvest of 500 - 1,000 in the Fortymile and Ladue River drainages of Unit 20(E);

(B) when the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf and brown bear population reduction or population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for up to five years beginning January 1, 2005, the commissioner may reduce the wolf and brown bear population in Units 12 and 20(E); however, the commissioner may not reduce the Unit 12 wolf population to fewer than 50 wolves, the Unit 20(E) wolf population to fewer than 60 wolves, or the Unit 12 or Unit 20(E) brown bear populations by more than 25 percent of the pre-control estimated total brown bear population; brown bear population estimates are based on extrapolations from past research in Unit 20(E) and similar habitats with similar bear food resources in Unit 20(A);

(ii) initially, the commissioner may focus bear control efforts in approximately 3,200 square miles or less of the control area; however, the commissioner may not reduce the number of bears in the focus area by more than 60 percent of the pre-control extrapolated estimate; estimates are based on extrapolations from past research in Unit 20(E) and similar habitats with similar bear food resources in Unit 20(A); after periodic evaluation of the efficacy of the program the Board of Game may modify in board findings the size or location of the focus area or add additional areas;

(iii) the commissioner shall reduce the wolf and bear populations in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(iv) the commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal under AS 16.05.783 ;

(v) the commissioner shall reduce the bear population by means and direction included in the Board of Game Bear Conservation and Management Policy (2004-147-BOG), dated March 8, 2004 and incorporated by reference;

(C) taking of wolves and brown bears in Unit 12 and Unit 20(E) during the term of the program may occur as provided in hunting regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided in 5 AAC 92.080; however, if the wolf population is reduced to 50 in Unit 12, or 60 in Unit 20(E), the commissioner shall stop all taking of wolves in that unit until the wolf population increases, or if the brown bear population is reduced by more than 25 percent of the pre-control estimated populations within Unit 12 or Unit 20E, the commissioner shall stop all taking of brown bears in that unit until an assessment is completed of the program's effectiveness in providing a reasonable increase in moose survival and in minimizing the long-term effects on the bear population and the potential for its recovery;

(D) annually, the department shall provide to the Board of Game, at its spring meeting, a report on program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, program effectiveness, and recommendations for changes to and continuation of the program;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) the board determined that the moose populations in Unit 12 and portions of Unit 20(E) are important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose in Unit 12 and Unit 20(E) consistent with multiple uses and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area;

(ii) the wolf and brown bear predation control area is established as an effort to increase the moose populations in Units 12 and 20(E);

(iii) during 1981 - 2003, the department conducted nine moose density estimation surveys within Unit 12 and 10 moose density estimation surveys within Unit 20(E); based on the surveys conducted in 2003, the population estimate for Unit 12 was 2,900 - 5,100 moose (plus or minus 22 percent at 90 percent confidence interval), or 0.5 - 0.9 moose per square mile of suitable moose habitat (6,000 square miles); population estimates for various portions of Unit 20(E) indicate a 2003 population size estimate of 4,000 - 4,800 for the entire unit, or 0.5 - 0.6 moose per square mile of suitable moose habitat (8,000 square miles);

(iv) high moose densities in Unit 12 and Unit 20(E) supported a long hunting season and a bag limit of one moose during the 1960s; as declines began in the early 1970s, hunting for cows was closed; hunting seasons in both units were shortened in 1973 and closed in Unit 20(E) during 1977 - 1981; for both units a ten-day bulls-only season was held during 1982 - 1990, and lengthened to 15 days, including antler restrictions during 1991 - 2004, with up to an additional 30 days in limited portions of the units;

(v) for residents, in 2004, in a portion of Unit 12 drained by the Little Tok River, the moose hunting season is open for five days in August and 10 days in September for one bull with antler restrictions; for a portion of southeast Unit 12, the hunting season is open for the month of September for one bull with antler restrictions; for the remainder of Unit 12, the hunting season is open for five days in August and 10 days in September for one bull; for residents, in 2004, in the portion of Unit 20(E) draining into the Middle Fork of the Fortymile River upstream from and including the Joseph Creek drainage the hunting season is open for five days in August and 10 days in September with a bag limit of one bull; in the remainder of Unit 20(E), for residents, the hunting season is open for five days in August and 10 days in September by registration permit with the stipulation that a registration permit for caribou in Unit 20(E) may not be held at the same time, and, during the month of November, by drawing hunt, all with a bag limit of one bull; for non-residents in both Units 12 and 20(E), only September hunting seasons are open with the same registration permit requirements as for residents with a bag limit of one bull with antler restrictions; no drawing permits are available for nonresidents;

(vi) reported moose harvest in Unit 12 ranged from means of 175 in the mid-1960s, to 157 in the early 1970s, and to 127 during 1999 - 2003; in Unit 20(E), reported harvest ranged from means of 120 in the mid-1960s, to 93 in the early 1970s, and to 148 during 1999 - 2003;

(vii) habitat availability or quality for moose in Unit 12 and Unit 20(E) are not currently primary limiting factors; all indications are that moose habitat in this area is capable of sustaining 1.0 - 1.5 moose per square mile; wildfires are common and fire suppression efforts are limited; over 1,600 square miles of habitat in Unit 20(E) were burned in 2004 alone, which may benefit future moose productivity and recruitment;

(viii) in a 1984 study conducted in central Unit 20(E), where wolves had been reduced during a predator control program prior to the study, wolves killed 12 - 15 percent of moose calves that were born, grizzly bears killed 52 percent and black bears killed three percent; most grizzly bear predation occurred during the six weeks following calving, while wolf predation on all sex and age classes occurred throughout the year; mean early winter ratios of 22 calves to 100 cows, observed during aerial surveys in 1981 - 1988, suggests brown bear predation was important; there has been little change in this pattern since 1988, indicating that brown bear predation remains a major factor in maintaining early winter ratios of 10 - 27 calves to 100 cows during 1997 - 2003 in Unit 20(E); in most portions of Unit 12, observed early winter ratios during the same period were 15 - 41 calves to 100 cows, indicating bear predation was less important than in Unit 20(E);

(ix) since 1980, the early-winter wolf population in Units 12 and 20(E) has been estimated using extrapolation of density estimates derived from data collected during intensive winter aerial surveys, information from interviews with local trappers and trapping records; the early-winter wolf population size estimates for 2002 - 2003 were 181 - 194 wolves in Unit 12 and 245 - 260 in Unit 20(E); the increasing numbers of caribou in the Fortymile herd and the winter migration of the Nelchina herd through Units 12 and 20(E) during the past five years appear to have allowed the wolf population in northern Unit 12 and Unit 20(E) to increase in recent years; wolf densities in northern and western Unit 20(E) are expected to further increase as packs sterilized under the Fortymile non-lethal wolf control program are replaced by unsterilized packs; due to the migratory patterns of these caribou herds, caribou are absent from much of Unit 12 and the southern portion of Unit 20(E) for most of the year, resulting in higher wolf predation rates on moose during periods when caribou are absent; if the wolf population in Unit 20(E) increases as expected and moose numbers remain stable or decline, additional wolf predation would likely continue to depress the moose population; moose can be expected to persist at low densities with little expectation of increase, unless predation is reduced; in Unit 20(E), the impacts of brown bear predation on adult moose is likely low to moderate, and the impact of black bear predation on moose is relatively inconsequential; in Unit 12, the impact of black bear predation on moose is likely low to moderate;

(x) brown bear population size estimates in 2002 were 350 - 425 bears in Unit 12 and 475 - 550 in Unit 20(E), based on extrapolation of density estimates obtained in Unit 20(E) during 1986 and intensive research studies conducted 100 miles to the west in Unit 20(A) during 1981 - 1998; black bear density has not been estimated in either Unit 12 or Unit 20(E);

(xi) brown bear hunting seasons are longer and less restrictive than during the 1970s when the bear population was lightly harvested; in Unit 12, the $25 tag fee requirement was waived during 1984 and 1985, but has been in effect since; bag limit was one bear every four years from the 1960s - 1984 and 1990 - 1991, and one bear per year in 1984 - 1990, and in 1992 - 2004; in Unit 20(E), the $25 tag fee requirement was waived from 1984 - 1992, and excluding the portion of Unit 20(E) in the Yukon-Charlie Rivers National Preserve, from 2002 - 2004; the bag limit was increased to one bear per year in 1982 - 2003 and to two bears per year in 2004;

(xii) brown bear harvest in Unit 12 varied from a mean of 17 during 1966 - 1981, to 22 during 1982 - 1988, and to 18 during 1989 - 2002; in Unit 20(E), harvest varied from a mean of three during 1966 - 1981, to 19 during 1982 - 1988, and to 14 during 1989 - 2002;

(xiii) since 1971, harvest of bears in portions of Unit 12 may have resulted in reductions of brown bear numbers and maintenance at a reduced population size; in combination with a large fire and heavy trapping pressure on wolves, this may have resulted in improved calf survival;

(xiv) hunting and trapping of wolves in the area has not exceeded sustainable levels; economic factors are a major obstacle to reducing wolf numbers through hunting and trapping; if the wolf population is to be reduced to achieve prey population objectives, measures beyond normal hunting and trapping will have to be employed;

(xv) in Unit 20(E), longer, less restrictive brown bear hunting seasons and bag limits since 1982 have not resulted in harvest sufficient to reduce bear numbers, and moose calf survival remains low; a bag limit of two bears per year was adopted in 2004, but its potential to reduce the bear population is in question; if the bear population is to be reduced to achieve prey population objectives, other measures beyond increasing the bag limit and season length, as described in the Board of Game Bear Conservation and Management Policy, will have to be employed.

History: Eff. 10/1/93, Register 127; am 8/18/95, Register 135; am 7/1/96, Register 138; add'l am 7/1/96, Register 138; am 7/27/97, Register 143; am 2/22/2000, Register 153; am 7/1/2000, Register 154; am 7/19/2000, Register 155; am 1/3/2001, Register 156; am 7/1/2001, Register 158; am 8/22/2001, Register 159; am 7/26/2003, Register 167; am 7/1/2004, Register 170; am 1/1/2005, Register 172; am 7/1/2005, Register 174

Authority: AS 16.05.255

AS 16.05.270

AS 16.05.783

Editor's note: A copy of the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan (October 1995) incorporated by reference in 5 AAC 92.125(4) is available by writing to the Division of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 25526, Juneau, AK 99802-5526, or is available for inspection at the Lieutenant Governor's Office in Juneau.

A copy of the Board of Game Bear Conservation and Management Policy (2004-147-BOG) incorporated by reference in 5 AAC 92.125(8) (B)(v) may be obtained by writing to Department of Fish and Game, Board Support Section, P.O. Box 25526, Juneau, AK 99802-5526.

Predation control implementation plans are established in the following areas:

(1) Repealed 1/26/2006;

(2) a Unit 20(A) wolf predation control area is established and consists of Unit 20(A), except for the following areas: the Fort Wainwright and Fort Greely Military Reservations, Clear Air Force Station, and that portion of Unit 20(A) south and west of a line beginning at the east end of the Moody Bridge where it intersects with the Unit 20(A) boundary, then north along the boundary of Unit 20(A) to a point exactly one mile east of the Parks Highway, then south and parallel to the Parks Highway at a distance of one mile east, to the southern boundary of Unit 20(A); in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 20(A) wolf predation control area consistent with the following program objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is to reverse the decline of the Delta caribou herd and increase the mid-summer caribou population to 5,000 - 7,000 with a sustainable annual harvest of 300 - 700 caribou by the year 2009;

(B) if the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for a five-year period beginning July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 20(A); however, the commissioner may not reduce the late-winter wolf population within the Unit 20(A) wolf predation control area to fewer than 75 wolves; and

(ii) the commissioner must reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 20(A) during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided in 5 AAC 92.080;

(D) annually, the department, to the extent practicable, shall provide to the Board of Game, at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objective;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) consumptive use of caribou, moose, and sheep has been a priority human use of wildlife in Unit 20(A) for decades; human demand for harvest of these species remains high and is reflected in management goals for maximizing opportunity to hunt moose, caribou, and sheep in this area; management objectives for population size and annual harvest were established to provide for conservation and annual sustained yields of the Delta caribou herd, consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation, and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area;

(ii) ecological relationships and predator-prey dynamics in Unit 20(A) are among the best understood in Alaska; extensive field studies and decades of experience indicate that management of predation and harvests by humans is necessary to achieve the management objectives for Unit 20(A);

(iii) a temporary reduction in wolf numbers is necessary to enhance survival of prey, reverse population declines, and achieve management objectives in Unit 20(A); although wolf predation may not be a significant factor initiating declines in prey abundance or productivity, once started by any other factor such as weather, declines in prey may be accelerated and deepened by wolf predation; no reasonable alternative to a temporary reduction in wolf numbers exists if the management objectives are to be achieved in a timely manner;

(iv) wolf population reduction was implemented in Unit 20(A) from spring 1976 through 1982 and October 1993 through November 1994; immediately following the initial wolf reduction, caribou and moose survival increased significantly; populations of both species grew through the 1980s, reaching peaks in 1989 of about 11,000 each from lows of about 1,800 and 2,800, respectively, in 1976; although sheep numbers also increased during this period, the direct effects of wolf reduction on sheep survival are not clearly known; following the end of control in spring 1982, the wolf population recovered to 220 - 295 by fall 1992 due to an expanded prey base during the 1980s; following the second wolf reduction, caribou calf survival and numbers increased; following the end of control, the wolf population recovered from an estimated 175 wolves in 1994 to 244 by 1998;

(v) during the mid-1980s, the number of caribou and moose harvested by hunters was within the management objectives outlined for that period; during the late 1980s and early 1990s, caribou harvests declined concurrent with the caribou population decline that was caused by reduced productivity and survival; the caribou season was shortened by emergency order in February 1991 and remained closed through 1995; hunting by drawing permit (up to 200 permits) for bull caribou only was resumed in 1996;

(vi) in spite of eliminating hunting, the Delta caribou herd continued to decline; the results of a June 1993 census indicated a population of 3,700 - 4,000 caribou in the Delta herd; the major causes for this decline were adverse weather and increased wolf predation; of these two factors, only wolf predation can be effectively managed; the results of a June 2003 census indicated a population of 2,500 - 2,600 caribou in the Delta herd; unless wolf predation is reduced, it is expected that the Delta caribou herd will decline to 1,500 - 2,000 caribou by 2009;

(vii) based on past experience in Unit 20(A) and elsewhere, aerial shooting by department personnel from helicopters is the most humane, selective, and effective method to reduce wolf numbers and is authorized;

(3) a Unit 20(D) wolf predation control area is established and consists of Unit 20(D), except for the portions of Unit 20(D) within the Ft. Greely Military Reservation and within the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area described in (4) of this section; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 20(D) wolf predation control area consistent with the following program objectives, methods, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objectives for the program are as follows:

(i) to increase the Unit 20(D) fall moose population to 8,000 - 10,000 moose with a sustainable harvest of 500 - 700 moose per year; and

(ii) to reverse the decline of the Macomb caribou herd and increase the fall population to 600 - 800 caribou with a sustainable harvest of 30 - 50 caribou per year;

(B) if the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts a wolf population reduction or a wolf population regulation program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph;

(i) for up to five years beginning July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 20(D); however, the commissioner may not reduce the wolf population within the Unit 20(D) wolf predation control area to fewer than 25 percent of the early-winter wolf population before initiation of the program; and

(ii) the commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical;

(C) hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 20(D) during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including the use of motorized vehicles as provided in 5 AAC 92.080; however, if the wolf population is reduced to 25 percent of the early-winter, pre-control size, the commissioner shall stop all taking of wolves until the wolf population increases;

(D) annually, the department shall, to the extent practicable, provide to the Board of Game at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of prey and predator populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives;

(E) justification for the program, and wildlife population and human-use information, is as follows:

(i) consumptive use of moose and caribou has been a priority human use of wildlife in Unit 20(D) for decades; human demand for harvest of these species remains high in Unit 20(D); the board determined the moose population in Unit 20(D) and the Macomb caribou herd are important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose in Unit 20(D) and the Macomb caribou herd consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area; these objectives are to have a moose population of 8,000 - 10,000 with an annual sustainable harvest of 500 - 700 moose and to have 600 - 800 caribou in the Macomb herd with an annual sustainable harvest of 30 - 50 caribou;

(ii) the Unit 20(D) moose population was estimated to be 6,002 - 7,770 moose in fall 2003 based on Geostatistical Population Estimation; the annual harvest from Unit 20(D) has averaged about 204 moose per year for the past five years; both the population size and harvest are well below the management objective levels;

(iii) the moose population in Unit 20(D) is divided into three subpopulations for management purposes: northern Unit 20(D), southeastern Unit 20(D), and southwestern Unit 20(D);

(iv) the northern Unit 20(D) moose population is estimated to be 2,070 - 2,719 moose; moose calf survival to fall was 18 calves to 100 cows in 1999; moose habitat quality is moderate in northern Unit 20(D), with extensive areas of subalpine habitat, lowland habitat associated with several major rivers and creeks, and numerous areas burned by wildfire within the last 1 - 30 years; the resident and nonresident hunting season is September 1 - 15 for any bull; during the last five years, an average of 261 hunters per year killed an average of 67 moose per year;

(v) the southwestern Unit 20(D) moose population is estimated to be 2,655 - 4,689 moose; moose calf survival to fall was 32 calves to 100 cows in 2003; moose habitat quality is good with extensive areas of subalpine habitat, several major wildfires in the 5 - 15 years, and large areas of cleared land that are revegetating with moose browse; the resident hunting season is September 1 - 15 for one bull with spike-fork or 50-inch antlers or antlers with four or more brow tines on at least one side; the nonresident season is September 5 - 15 for one bull with 50-inch antlers or antlers with four or more brow tines on at least one side; the Delta Junction Management Area and the Bison Range Youth Hunt Management Area is hunting by drawing permit within this portion of Unit 20(D); during the last five years, an average of 432 hunters per year killed an average of 118 moose per year;

(vi) the southeastern Unit 20(D) moose population is estimated to be 544 - 1,162 moose; moose calf survival to fall was 24 calves to 100 cows in 2003; moose habitat quality is good with extensive areas of subalpine habitat and lowland habitat along the Tanana River; the resident hunting season is September 1 - 15 for any bull; there is no open season for nonresidents, except within a portion of the Robertson River drainage; the Macomb Plateau Controlled Use Area within this portion of Unit 20(D) restricts motorized access for hunting, and makes moose hunting difficult in much of this area; during the last five years, an average of 47 hunters per year killed an average of 13 moose per year during the general hunting season;

(vii) the Unit 20(D) grizzly bear population can be estimated by extrapolation from bear research data collected in adjacent units; the extrapolated estimate for Unit 20(D) is 181 - 210 total grizzly bears, with 143 - 176 bears older than two years; the grizzly bear estimate for southeastern and southwestern Unit 20(D) combined is 76 - 86 total bears, including 51 - 58 bears older than two years; in northern Unit 20(D), the grizzly bear population is estimated to contain 105 - 124 total bears with 92 - 109 bears older than two years; human-caused grizzly bear mortality has averaged 14 bears per year for the last five years;

(viii) black bears occur throughout Unit 20(D) at low to mid elevation; no estimate of black bear density or population size can be made; both black bears and grizzly bears are known to prey on moose in Unit 20(D), but the extent of predation has not been measured; human-caused black bear mortality has averaged 22 bears per year for the last five years;

(ix) the Macomb caribou herd declined significantly in size from 800 caribou in fall 1990 to 458 in fall 1993; the herd increased to 550 - 575 by fall 2003 with a ratio of 19 calves to 100 cows;

(x) winter weather in Unit 20(D) has been moderate for the past five to eight years;

(xi) extensive research in Alaska and northern Canada demonstrates the potential for naturally regulated wolf and bear populations to regulate moose numbers at densities well below the forage-carrying capacity of the habitat; potential harvest from such moose populations is low; it is likely that the moose population in Unit 20(D) fits this pattern, particularly in northern Unit 20 (D); unless combined wolf and bear predation is reduced, the moose population will not increase to objective levels in spite of mild weather, abundant high quality forage, and restrictive hunter harvest;

(xii) bear regulations have been liberalized in portions of Unit 20(D) for several years; in parts of the unit, grizzly numbers are probably reduced somewhat as a result of hunter harvest and other human-caused mortality; no corresponding increase in moose or caribou numbers or harvestable surplus is evident as a result;

(xiii) the fall 2002 wolf population is estimated to be 88 - 98 based on aerial surveys, incidental observations, sealing records, and interviews with knowledgeable trappers; an average of 38 (41 percent of the population) wolves per year have been taken by hunting and trapping during the past five years; this is below the harvest necessary to result in a population reduction; in addition several packs in northern Unit 20(D) were treated during the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Program and still contain sterilized pairs of wolves;

(xiv) if local hunters and trappers do not achieve adequate wolf reductions, the commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal under AS 16.05.783 ; if this is unsuccessful in achieving adequate reduction of wolf numbers, the commissioner may implement aerial shooting by the department;

(4) a Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area is established in that portion of Unit 20(B), including the Salcha River drainage upstream from and including the South Fork of the Salcha River, plus the Chena River drainage upstream from Van Curlers bar; that portion of Unit 20(D), including the Goodpaster drainage upstream from and including Central Creek, the entire drainage of the South Fork of the Goodpaster River, the Healy River drainage, and Billy and Sand Creeks; that portion of Unit 20(E), including the Middle Fork and North Fork drainages of the Fortymile River upstream from and including Hutchinson Creek, plus the Mosquito Fork drainage upstream from and including Gold Creek, plus the Seventymile drainage, plus the Mission Creek drainage; the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area does not include those lands that are part of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and the Fortymile Wild and Scenic River corridor; in accordance with 5 AAC 92.110, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area consistent with the following program objectives, constraints, and requirements:

(A) the objective of the program is to stimulate recovery of the Fortymile caribou herd to its traditional range and to benefit the people who value the herd and its ecosystem using nonlethal techniques recommended by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team; these nonlethal techniques are to provide conditions for the Fortymile herd to grow at a moderate annual rate of five percent to 10 percent between 1997 and spring 2001 and provide a sustainable harvest of at least two percent of herd size (greater than 560) following the control program;

(B) wolf trapping by the public within the control area is governed by 5 AAC 84.270 and not by this section; however, wolf trapping shall be closed under 5 AAC 92.110 if the wolf population is reduced to less than 30 wolves; to protect fertility controlled wolves, the department shall continue to maintain close contact with local wolf trappers about the location of treated wolves; trappers will be asked to voluntarily avoid trapping wolves in fertility controlled territories; emergency closures will be used only if voluntary compliance is not obtained;

(C) if the commissioner or the commissioner's designee conducts the program, the program must be conducted in the following manner to achieve the objectives in (A) of this paragraph:

(i) for up to four years beginning in October 1997, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area; however, the commissioner may not reduce the wolf population within the area to less than 30 wolves in 15 packs and may not implement fertility control or translocate packs that primarily range within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve; between five and seven packs may be scheduled for nonlethal treatment each year;

(ii) the commissioner may reduce the wolf population using only nonlethal means endorsed by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team as follows: beginning in October 1997, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area by translocating and sterilizing wolves to regulate productivity and to minimize immigration of new wolves into the area; if translocation is used, groups of up to five wolves will be moved at least 100 miles to remote sites within the winter ranges of the Nelchina, Porcupine, and Western Arctic caribou herds where human use of caribou is below sustainable levels, or to the Kenai Peninsula to increase genetic diversity of the current, relatively isolated Kenai wolf population; release sites should have prey densities comparable to or greater than prey densities in the Fortymile range; to ensure that sterilization does not interfere with gonadal cycling, males may be vasectomized using either surgical or chemical techniques; females may be tubally ligated if ongoing studies in the Yukon Territory, Canada indicate this is feasible and safe; surgical sterilization shall be performed only by a qualified veterinary surgeon; other techniques proven to more effective and humane may be used after review by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team and approval by the Board of Game;

(D) the department shall, to the extent practicable, provide the Board of Game at each spring meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities and population status reports for Fortymile caribou, wolves, grizzly and black bears, moose, and sheep;

(E) based upon the report in (D) of this paragraph, recommendations for program changes, if necessary, shall be made by the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team and the department;

(F) wildlife population and human-use information, and justifications for the program are as follows:

(i) the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan (October 1995), incorporated by reference in this paragraph, was developed by a diverse group of state and Yukon Territory, Canada (Yukon) residents and representatives from state, federal, and territorial wildlife managing agencies; the team's goal was to develop management steps acceptable to most residents of this state and the Yukon that would restore the Fortymile Caribou herd to its traditional range thereby benefiting the ecosystem, including residents and visitors to the area;

(ii) traditionally the Fortymile caribou herd has been an important subsistence resource for residents throughout interior Alaska and the western Yukon; the Board of Game determined that the Fortymile caribou herd is important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the Board of Game established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of Fortymile caribou consistent with multiple use, principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and wildlife species in the area, and the intent of the 1995 Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan;

(iii) the June 2003 herd estimate was 43,375, a 92 percent increase from the 1995 estimate of 22,558; population trend is increasing at 8 - 10 percent annually; currently, the herd ranges within an area of approximately 19,300 square miles in east central Alaska and in the adjacent Yukon; only a small percentage of the herd moves into the Yukon each year; the Fortymile Caribou herd was estimated to exceed 500,000 caribou during the 1920s and numbered at least 50,000 during the 1950s and early 1960s; traditionally, the herd ranged from Ft. Selkirk, Yukon Territory to west of the Steese Highway; current range use is less than 25 percent of the range use described in the 1920s;

(iv) in 1990, harvest was reduced to below sustainable levels and was not a limiting factor to herd growth; harvests were limited to two percent of the population, up to 450 caribou; the bag limit was set at one bull; during 1990 - 1995, harvest averaged about 1.5 percent of the midsummer herd size; historically, hunter interest in the herd has been high; even during the period of restrictive harvest in the early 1990s, 1,700 to 2,100 people hunted the herd annually; as part of the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan, the harvest quota was further reduced to 150 bulls, including up to 100 during the fall and a minimum of 50 during the winter; hunters were asked to reduce their efforts to harvest Fortymile caribou during the life of the plan; during 1996 - 2000, hunters complied with this request and an average of 778 hunters annually harvested about 0.5 percent of the mid-summer herd population; in 2000, the board endorsed the 2001 - 2006 Fortymile Harvest Management Plan; since 2001, an average of 3,239 hunters annually harvested about 1.8 percent of the mid-summer herd size;

(v) habitat quality and disease are not limiting factors; range condition has been assessed based on the percent of lichens in the herd's winter diet; samples obtained since 1991 indicate the winter range used by the herd is still in excellent condition; in addition, most of the traditional winter range not used since the early 1970s is still available; pregnancy rates (averaging greater than 80 percent annually) indicate the herd is in good nutritional condition; calf weights in October have been relatively high and stable compared with nutritionally stressed herds; blood samples collected from the Fortymile caribou herd indicate there are no infectious diseases present in the herd; land managers and owners within the herd's traditional range have been contacted about maintaining caribou range for the future;

(vi) before removal or sterilization, the 1995 fall wolf population in the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area was estimated to be 125-135 wolves using radiotelemetry and track surveys; average fall pack size was 6.9, ranging between 4 and 13 wolves; the average annual wolf harvest within the area from winter 1992 - 1993 and winter 1994 - 1995 was 18 wolves (14 percent), well below sustainable levels; during winter 1995 - 1996, the harvest increased to 73 wolves (56 percent), which was high enough to reduce the area's wolf population; in winter 2003 - 2004, 9 of 15 sterilized pairs were still in place and the remaining 6 pack territories had been taken over by new packs averaging 6 - 8 wolves each;

(vii) wolf predation has consistently been a major cause of death among Fortymile caribou; during 1994 through April 1998, wolves caused an average of 49 percent of the annual calf mortality and between May 1991 and April 1998, wolves caused 89 percent of the total adult mortality; during May 1998 through April 2002, wolves caused an average of 39 percent of the annual calf mortality and 74 percent of the total adult mortality;

(viii) grizzly and black bear densities and population trends within most of the Fortymile Nonlethal Predation Control Area have not been affected by harvest; most of this area is difficult to access and historically bear harvest in this area has been well below sustainable levels; from May through April 1998, grizzly and black bears caused an average of 30 and four percent of the annual calf mortality, respectively; from May 1998 through April 2002, grizzly and black bears caused an average of 32 and seven percent of the annual calf mortality, respectively;

(ix) wolves and grizzly bears were major factors limiting the Fortymile caribou herd to a relatively low, stable population during 1990-1996, compared with annual growth rates of 7-10 percent in the 1980s when environmental conditions were favorable and predation rates were lower; the herd's potential to grow is indicated by past herd estimates numbering in the hundreds of thousands; range quality and quantity, herd condition and productivity, and human harvest are not major factors limiting herd growth; the most significant factor limiting herd growth was predation on calves; without increasing caribou calf survival, the herd was predicted to remain stable during most years and show only low to moderate growth during years of favorable weather; under pretreatment management, herd recovery to traditional ranges in interior Alaska and the western Yukon, was expected to be slow; by temporarily reducing predation, the herd growth was expected to be a minimum of 5-10 percent except during years of unfavorable weather conditions; between 1997 and 2003 when control implementation activities were conducted, herd growth averaged 8 - 10 percent annually;

(x) reducing a wolf population by 69-85 percent has resulted in 16-17 percent average annual increases in the caribou numbers in central Alaska and the east central Yukon; the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team recommended nonlethal techniques including wolf fertility control and wolf translocation as well as legal public wolf trapping to reach this level of reduction; each management step is designed with a specific purpose; trapping is acknowledged to potentially reduce the size of the packs within the control area so that nonlethal techniques are more economically and logistically feasible, translocation of subordinate wolves may be necessary to reduce the pack to the alpha breeding pair; fertility control is necessary to maintain the wolf population at a low level and to keep new wolves from colonizing the area;

(xi) the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team requested that criteria be adopted for early termination of the implementation plan if nonlethal control appears ineffective; the following criteria were agreed to by the team: if the herd failed to grow 10 percent between June 1998 and June 2000, and the wolves killed more than 3,500 caribou each year during 1998 and 1999, then the program would be terminated; between June 1998 and June 2000 the herd grew by 12 percent;

(xii) the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Team reemphasized that the conservation of caribou habitat should take priority over conflicting uses that jeopardize the herd recovery;

(5) Repealed 1/26/2006;

(6) Repealed 1/26/2006;

(7) Repealed 1/26/2006;

(8) Repealed 1/26/2006;

(9) Unit 19(A) Wolf Predation Control Implementation Plan

(1) Geographical area description. A Unit 19(A) wolf predation control area is established and consists of those portions of the Kuskokwin River drainage within Game Management Unit 19(A) defined in 5 AAC 92.450(19) (A), encompassing approximately 9,969 mi 2 . This predator control program does not apply within National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge lands unless approved by the federal agencies.

(2) Authorization for the department to conduct a predation control program. Notwithstanding any other provision in this title, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 19(A) wolf predation control area.

(3) Discussion of wildlife population and human use information.

(A) Prey population information.

(i) The moose population size for Unit 19(A) was estimated in March 2004, based upon earlier estimates of density in portions of the Unit. In March 1998, 1.25 moose/mi 2 (+14%, 80% CI) was estimated in a portion of the Holitna-Hoholitna drainage. In March 2001, 0.7 moose/mi 2 ( + 21%, 90% CI) was estimated in a portion of the Aniak drainage. Extrapolation of data from both estimates to all of Unit 19(A) resulted in an estimated total population size of 4300-6900. The population size for Unit 19(A) was revised in February 2005, based upon an estimate of 0.27 moose/mi 2 ( + 16%, 90% CI) obtained from a survey in the portion of the unit south of the Kuskokwim River. Extrapolation of this data to all of Unit 19(A) resulted in an estimated total population size of 2350-3250, which is lower than the 2004 estimate and indicates moose numbers have declined. Using the most recent extrapolation of the population estimates the overall density of the moose population in Unit 19(A) is 0.23 - 0.32 moose/mi 2 . Historically, observations by the public and department composition surveys indicate densities were higher before the first population estimate in 1998.

(ii) In November 2001, a survey on the Holitna-Hoholitna Rivers in Unit 19(A) was conducted. A total of 196 moose were classified with an observed bull:cow ratio of 6:100 and an observed calf:cow ratio of 8:100. The low numbers observed could have been influenced by an atypical moose distribution caused by shallow snow and relatively temperate late fall weather.

(iii) In November 2004, a survey was conducted to estimate composition in the Holitna-Hoholitna, Oskawalik, and Stony River portion of Unit 19(A) (4828 mi 2 ). A total of 226 moose were classified and the bull:cow ratio (19:100, + 76%, 90% CI) and calf:cow ratio (32:100, 38%, 90% CI) estimates were higher than observed in the November 2001 trend count survey. Some improvement in the ratios is indicated, however, results of the two surveys cannot be directly compared because the 2004 survey covered a much larger geographic area and was done using different methods than the 2001 survey. The estimated percent moose calves in the total population during the November 2004 composition survey was 22% ( + 38%, 90% CI).

(iv) In November 2005, composition surveys were conducted in the Holitna-Hoholitna drainage in Units 19(A) and 19(B) and in the Aniak drainage including the Kuskokwim River from lower Kalskag to Napaimiut in Unit 19(A). A different technique was implemented than what was used for previous composition surveys because of the concern about possible atypical moose distribution when confining the survey area to the river corridor and the concern about wide confidence intervals in the November 2004 survey. A total of 307 moose were observed and the observed bull:cow ratio was 8:100 with most bulls classified as yearlings (12 of 19). The observed calf:cow ratio was 24:100 and the percent calves was 18%. The low bull:cow ratios observed during the past 3 composition surveys indicate that hunting pressure has been high in the Holitna-Hoholitna drainage. In the western portion of Unit 19(A), the Aniak drainage and the Kuskokwim River from Lower Kalskag to Napaimiut was also surveyed. No composition data had been collected previously in this portion of Unit 19(A). A total of 410 moose were counted with an observed bull:cow ratio of 20:100 and an observed calf:cow ratio of 23:100.

(v) Birth rate among radiocollared cows in Unit 19(A) is high. In 2005, of 9 radio-collared cows in the lower Holitna River, 3 had twins, 4 had a single calf and 2 had no calf (78% birth rate). Of 8 radiocollared cows in the Aniak River drainage 2 had twins and 6 had single calves (100% birth rate). Overall, the 2005 birth rate among radiocollared cows in Unit 19(A) was 88%.

(vi) A late winter survey to estimate calf survival conducted in April 2003 in Unit 19(A) resulted in an estimate of 7.6% calves in the moose population in Holitna/Hoholitna drainage (sample size 107 adults and 9 short-yearlings) and 8.9% in the moose population in the Aniak drainage (sample size 61 adults and 6 short-yearlings). The calf:cow ratios in fall and percent of calves found in spring surveys support the conclusion that calf survival in the moose population is very low, and a decline in moose numbers is probably occurring.

(vii) Based on current estimates of recruitment and using a conservative harvest rate for bulls that is based on 4% of the total moose population, the harvestable surplus of moose in Unit 19(A) is 94 - 130 moose.

(viii) The Intensive Management (IM) moose population objective established by the Board of Game (board) for Units 19(A) and (B) is 13,500-16,500 moose. Based on the relative sizes of the two units, the proportional population objective for Unit 19(A) alone is 7,600 - 9,300 moose. The Intensive Management moose harvest objective for Units 19(A) and (B) is 750-950 moose. The proportional harvest objective for Unit 19(A) alone is 423 - 536 moose. Achieving the population and harvest objectives for Unit 19(A) will contribute to achieving the Intensive Management population and harvest objectives established for Units 19(A) and (B).

(ix) Based on data available, habitat is probably not a factor limiting population growth in moose in the central Kuskokwim region. A browse survey in Unit 19(D) (in the upper Kuskokwim River) during spring 2001, found that moose were removing about 16% of current annual growth. These removal rates are near the midpoint of the range observed in areas of low to high moose browse use (9%-42%). A browse survey in autumn 2002 below Lower Kalskag on the Kuskokwim River (Unit 18) found that 78% of shrubs were unbrowsed and none were heavily browsed by moose. There is some indication that cows are in average or good body condition because twinning rates of 32% were observed in spring 2000 on the Holitna and Hoholitna Rivers, although sample sizes were small (less than 10). Of 15 radiocollared cows in Unit 19(A) that had calves in 2005, 5 produced twins for a 33% twinning rate. If observations of browsing upriver and downriver from Unit 19(A), and limited observations of twinning are indicative of the situation in Unit 19(A), habitat enhancement alone is unlikely to cause a significant population increase in moose in the foreseeable future. The highest quality moose habitat in the unit is found in the lower Holitna River floodplain. High quality habitat is present in riparian areas along the Kuskokwim River and adjacent drainages. Other portions of Unit 19(A) have lower quality habitat.

(x) Total estimated mortality is likely high relative to the size of the moose population. Information gained from studies on moose mortality in Unit 19(D)-East and other similar areas of Alaska, and observations by local residents indicate that wolves are currently a major limiting factor for moose in Unit 19(A). Research from Unit 19(D)-East also indicates that black and brown bear predation is likely a factor that contributes to limiting the moose population in Unit 19(A). Of 38 adult moose radio-collared in October 2003, 7 had died by November 2005. Moose mortality from harvest by humans is also high, relative to the population size, and regulatory proposals have been submitted to severely restrict harvest.

(xi) The number of animals that can be removed from the Unit 19(A) moose population on an annual basis without preventing growth of the population or altering the composition of the population in a biologically unacceptable manner is less than the harvest objective established for the population in 5 AAC 92.108. The moose population in Units 19(A) and 19(B) is well below the IM objective set by the board. The moose population in Unit 19(A) is also well below the objective calculated by the department for the subunit.

(xii) Without an effective wolf predation control program, moose in Unit 19(A) are likely to persist in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium state with little expectation of increase. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted throughout Alaska and similar areas in Canada suggest that reducing the number of wolves in Unit 19(A) can reasonably be expected to increase the survival of calf as well as older moose, particularly yearlings. Reducing wolf predation on moose, in combination with reducing harvest (particularly of cows), can reasonably be expected to initiate an increase of the moose population towards the population objective.

B. Human use information for prey population.

(i) The Division of Subsistence conducted household surveys on subsistence use of big game in communities in Unit 19(A) between April 2003 and March 2004. Moose was the most widely used and hunted animal in all eight communities surveyed. Overall, 76% of all households in the Central Kuskokwim area used moose, 57% of all households attempted to harvest moose, and 22% of all households successfully harvested one or more moose. Of the estimated 107 moose harvested by the eight survey communities, 64 (60%) were taken in Unit 19(A), 14 (13%) were taken in Unit 18, and the remainder (27%) were taken in other Unit 19 subunits or in unreported locations. An estimated 426 individuals, or 28% of the area population, spent a total of 4,591 hunter-days in pursuit of moose. To put this number in perspective, it is equivalent to a period of nearly 12.6 years, a clear testament to the importance of moose as a subsistence resource in the Central Kuskokwim region. Of the 426 individuals who went hunting, only 96 (23%) were successful in harvesting a moose. The average number of days spent hunting by successful households per moose harvested (14.7) is higher than any previously reported numbers in the state where similar methods of data collection and analysis were employed. Households were asked to compare their 2003-2004 harvest of moose with their harvest both five years and ten years before, and they overwhelmingly noted harvesting fewer moose in 2003-2004.

(ii) Between June 1982 and June 1983, Division of Subsistence staff conducted extensive research on the resource use patterns and community characteristics of Chuathbaluk and Sleetmute. A comparison of that information with the 2004 data indicates a significant decline in household harvest rates; from an average of 0.55 to 0.2 moose harvested per household in Chuathbaluk and from 0.68 to 0.3 moose harvested per household in Sleetmute.

(iii) Residents of Unit 19(A) have always had a high demand for moose for subsistence needs. Since the 1990's when larger boats became available to residents in the lower Kuskokwim River and income from commercial fishing increased the ability to purchase fuel for long hunting trips, demand for moose in Unit 19(A) has increased. Since 2004 there has been a moratorium on moose hunting in the Kuskokwim River drainage in Unit 18 and this has increased the demand for moose for subsistence purposes in Unit 19(A).

(iv) The amount necessary for subsistence (ANS) established by the board for Unit 19 (including the Lime Village Management Area) is 430-730 moose. Most of the human population in Unit 19 is residents of communities along the Kuskokwim River in Unit 19(A). The ANS for Unit 19 is also based on subsistence need by residents of Unit 18. Unit 19(A) includes the most accessible portion of Unit 19 for the main population base in the region. Subsistence hunters have depended on Unit 19(A) to provide the majority of subsistence harvest in Unit 19 as a whole. Harvest in Unit 19(A) is a critical component of the ANS for Unit 19 and the ability to meet subsistence needs in the region.

(v) According to harvest ticket reports, numbers of hunters and moose harvested declined substantially between the mid 1990s and 2002. Total reported moose harvested in Unit 19(A) declined from the 1994-1995 season (168 moose) to the 2002-2003 season (67 moose). In Unit 19(A), the number of moose reported harvested by local residents and other Alaska residents declined approximately 65% (from 138 moose to 48 moose) between 1994-1995 and 2002-2003. After the RM 640 registration permit hunt for Alaska residents was implemented in fall 2004, harvest reporting greatly improved. In 2004 reports indicate that 107 moose were harvested in Unit 19(A). Preliminary analysis of the fall 2005 hunt indicates that 170 moose were harvested. While it may appear that moose harvest increased significantly after the registration permit hunt was established, the increase is most likely attributable to better reporting rates.

(vi) The average number of nonresident hunters in Unit 19(A) between 1994-95 and 2002-2003 was 52. The peak number of nonresident hunters was 91 in 2000-01. When Unit 19(A) was closed to nonresident hunting in March 2004 several guides protested vigorously that their agreements with clients could not be met and their businesses would suffer. Since that time demand for nonresident hunting opportunity has not been met.

(vii) Demand for moose harvest in Unit 19(A) is likely to increase in the future. If the moose hunting moratorium in Unit 18 is successful in increasing the moose population in that area it will help relieve some of the demand on Unit 19(A). Still, with more than 20,000 residents in Unit 18 there will be high demand for moose throughout the region, indefinitely into the future. Clearly, demand is not being met now. If the wolf control program is successful it will help to meet the need for moose in the region in the future, Without a wolf predation control program there is a very low probability that the moose population will increase sufficiently to meet subsistence needs or other harvest demands in the future.

C. Predator population information.

(i) The pre-control wolf population in Unit 19(A) was estimated in fall 2004 using an extrapolation technique combined with sealing records and anecdotal observations. The population in the entire 9,969 square mile area was estimated at 180- 240 wolves in 24-28 packs or approximately 1.8-2.4 wolves per 100 square miles.

(ii) During the winter of 2004-2005 a total of 70 wolves were reported taken in Unit 19(A). Of those, 43 were taken in the wolf predation control program and 27 were taken by trappers and hunters. Because wolves have a high reproductive capacity, it is likely that at least 125-175 wolves were again present in Unit 19(A) in fall 2005. In areas with limited human developments, habitat is not considered a significant factor in limiting wolf populations and it is presumed that numbers of wolves are limited mainly by prey availability. There is no evidence of disease or any other naturally occurring factors that would cause wolf mortality to be higher than normally expected.

(iii) Moose and wolf population data available in March 2004 suggested the moose-to-wolf ratio was between 18:1 and 38:1. Since that time the moose population estimates have been lowered and increased wolf take in 2004-2005 also may have reduced the wolf population somewhat. There was likely a more significant decrease in the estimated moose population than in the wolf population. Taking these factors into account it is likely that the current moose to wolf ratio in Unit 19(A) is between 13:1 and 26:1. With this moose to wolf ratio it is likely that the moose population in Unit 19(A) will decline further.

(iv) When present, the Mulchatna Caribou Herd provides an alternative source of prey for wolves in Unit 19(A). Because migrations of the herd into portions of 19(A) vary each year, the herd is not consistently available to wolves in the plan area.

(v) Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large reductions are required to affect wolf population levels and to reduce predation by wolves on their prey. Research indicates a reduction of about 60-80 percent of the pre-control wolf population may be necessary to achieve prey population objectives. Once the wolf population has been reduced to the population control objective, annual reductions of less than 60 percent will likely regulate the wolf population at the control objective. The wolf population control objective for Unit 19(A) is 40-53 wolves. A minimum population of 40 represents a 78 percent reduction from the pre-control minimum estimated wolf population. The minimum wolf population control objective will achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, and also insure that wolves persist within the plan area.

(vi) Without a wolf predation control program, the wolf population is expected to decline somewhat due to further decline in the moose population and reduced availability of prey. The moose and wolf populations in Unit 19(A) are in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium where both predator and prey numbers are likely to stay at low levels indefinitely. If wolf predation control efforts continue and the wolf population is reduced according to the wolf population and harvest objectives, the wolf population will be maintained at 40-53 for several years but once the moose population increases and wolf control efforts are discontinued the wolf population will increase in response to the increased prey base.

D. Human use information for the predator population.

(i) Total reported harvest of wolves in Unit 19(A) by both hunters and trappers between 1998 and 2004 ranged between 21 and 49 wolves. During the winter of 2004-05 a total of 70 wolves were reported taken in Unit 19(A). Of those, 43 were taken in the wolf predation control program and 27 were taken by trappers and hunters. It is likely that a few additional wolves (estimated 5-10) are harvested in the area but the used locally and do not get sealed and reported.

(ii) The human population in Unit 19(A) is concentrated along the Kuskokwim River corridor. There are large portions of the unit that are remote from communities in the region and access is difficult. The central Kuskokwim region weather is influenced by coastal conditions and often warm spells in the winter will melt snow and make travel and tracking conditions poor. In addition, the low price of wolf pelts and cost of fuel make it difficult for local residents to harvest a high number of wolves throughout the unit.

(iii) In the first year of the Unit 19(A) wolf predation control program reported wolf harvest by hunters and trappers was 27 wolves, within the range of previous years' harvest. Without a wolf predation control program in place wolf harvest is expected to remain relatively constant.

(4) Predator and prey population levels and population objectives and the basis for those objectives.

(A) The estimated moose population in Unit 19(A) is 2350-3250 moose. The moose population objective for Unit 19(A) is 7,600 - 9,300 moose. This objective is based on the IM objective for Unit 19(A) and (B) established by the board and the proportion of the land area in the combined subunits that is within Unit 19(A). IM objectives were based on historical information about moose numbers, carrying capacity of the habitat, sustainable harvest levels, and human use.

(B) The pre-control estimated wolf population in Unit 19(A) was 180-240 wolves during fall 2004. Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large, annual reductions of wolves are required to diminish wolf population levels and predation by wolves on their prey. Consistent with scientific studies and department experience the objective of this plan is to substantially reduce wolf numbers from pre-control levels in order to relieve predation pressure on moose and allow for improved recruitment to the moose population. This plan also has as a goal to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the described geographical area. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but insure that wolves persist within the plan area, the wolf population in Unit 19(A) will be reduced to no fewer than 40 wolves.

(C) The wolf population control objective for Unit 19(A) is 40-53 wolves. A minimum population of 40 represents a 78 percent reduction from the pre-control minimum estimated wolf population. The minimum wolf population control objective will achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, and also insure that wolves persist within the plan area.

(5) Justifications for the predator control implementation plan.

(A) The estimated density of the moose population in Unit 19(A) is in the range of 0.23 - 0.32 moose mi 2 with a population of 2350-3250 moose. The harvestable surplus of moose in Unit 19(A) is 94 - 130 moose and is not sufficient to provide the amount of moose necessary for subsistence purposes or provide for non-subsistence uses. The moose population and harvest objectives for Unit 19(A) are not being met because mortality has exceeded recruitment into the population causing a decline in moose numbers. Wolf predation is an important cause of moose mortality.

(B) With an estimated pre-control population of 180-240 wolves, approximately 821 - 1,094 adult equivalent moose are likely to be killed by wolves each year. Kill rates by wolves are affected by availability of moose, snow depth, number of alternate prey, size of wolf packs and other local factors. In Alaska and Canada where moose are the primary prey of wolves, studies documented kill rates ranging from 4 to 7 moose per wolf per winter.

(C) Reducing wolf numbers through a wolf predation control program, combined with reduction in moose harvest is the approach most likely to succeed in a recovery of the moose population. Wolf harvest through hunting and trapping efforts has not resulted in lowering the wolf population sufficiently to allow the moose population to grow. A regulation change in March 2002 to allow the use of snowmachines to take wolves has not resulted in a measurable increase in wolf harvest. Public information and education programs have been implemented in the central Kuskokwim region to improve understanding of the biological effect of killing cow moose and the potential benefits to the moose population of increasing harvest of wolves and bears. Education should help in the long-term but is not expected to result in a significant increase in the moose population in the short-term. Unit 19(A) was closed to nonresident hunting and a registration permit system for resident hunters was established in 2004. With new moose population data it has become apparent that those regulation changes have not reduced harvest sufficiently. The department has submitted a proposal to the board for consideration at their March 2006 meeting to close all moose hunting in Unit 19(A) above the Oskawalik River and implement a Tier II subsistence permit hunt in Unit 19(A) below the Oskawalik River to more tightly control harvest. The Central Kuskokwim Fish and Game Advisory Committee has submitted proposals designed to increase bear harvest.

(D) Presently known alternatives to predator control for reducing the number of predators are ineffective, impractical, or uneconomical in the Unit 19(A) situation. Hunting and trapping conducted under authority of ordinary hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits is not an effective reduction technique in sparsely populated areas such as Unit 19(A). Numbers of hunters and trappers are relatively low and educational programs to stimulate interest and improve skills in taking wolves are in the early stages of development, and so far have been unsuccessful in increasing the harvest of wolves. The inherent wariness of wolves, difficult access, and relatively poor pelt prices also explain low harvest rates. Application of the most common sterilization techniques (surgery, implants, or inoculation) are not effective reduction techniques because they require immobilization of individual predators, which is extremely expensive in remote areas. Relocation of wolves is impractical because it is expensive and it is very difficult to find publicly acceptable places for relocated wolves. Habitat manipulation is ineffective because it may improve the birth rate of moose in certain circumstances, but it is poor survival, not poor birth rate that keeps moose populations low in rural areas of Interior Alaska. Supplemental feeding of wolves and bears as an alternative to predator control has improved moose calf survival in two experiments. However, large numbers of moose carcasses are not available for this kind of effort and transporting them to remote areas of Alaska is not practical. Stocking of moose is impractical because of capturing and moving expenses. Any of the alternatives to a wolf predation control program are not likely to be effective in achieving the desired level of predator harvest.

(E) Moose hunting seasons and bag limits have been reduced in Unit 19(A). The nonresident season in Unit 19(A) was closed; and residents hunters in Unit 19(A) are required to have a registration permit. The resident winter moose hunting season in Unit 19(A) was eliminated to reduce overall harvest and eliminate incidental cow harvest to improve the reproductive potential of the population. The overall reported number of moose taken in Unit 19(A) has declined by over 60 percent from 168 in 1994 - 1995 to 67 during 2002 - 2003. While helpful, these measures alone will not likely stop the decline in the moose population and they will not be enough alone to allow the moose population to increase. Further reductions in harvest opportunity will be recommended to the Board of Game in March 2006, now at a level that appears to be insufficient to meet even the amounts necessary for subsistence use.

(F) Without an effective wolf predation control program, the wolf harvest objective cannot be achieved and moose in Unit 19(A) are likely to persist in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium state with little expectation of increase. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted throughout Alaska and similar areas in Canada suggest that reducing the number of wolves in Unit 19(A) can reasonably be expected to increase the survival of calf as well older moose. Reducing wolf predation on moose, in combination with reducing harvest (particularly of cows), can reasonably be expected to initiate an increase of the moose population towards the population objective. Aerial wolf predation control makes it possible to increase the take of wolves over large expanses of territory in a vast and remote region like the majority of Unit 19(A). With a reduction in wolf caused mortality and restrictions in harvest, the moose population is expected to grow.

(6) Methods and means.

(A) Hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 19(A) during the term of the program will occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080.

(B) The commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal pursuant to AS 16.05.783 .

(7) Anticipated time frame and schedule for update and reevaluation.

(A) For up to five years beginning on July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 19(A).

(B) Annually, the department shall to the extent practicable, provide to the board at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose and wolf populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives.

(8) Other specifications the board considers necessary.

(A) The commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical.

(B) The commissioner will suspend wolf control activities

(i) When wolf inventories and/or accumulated information from permittees indicate the need to avoid reducing wolf numbers below the management objective of 40 wolves specified in this section; or

(ii) When spring conditions deteriorate to make wolf control operations infeasible; or

(iii) No later than April 30 in any regulatory year.

(C) Wolf control activities will be terminated

(i) When prey population management objectives are attained; or

(ii) Upon expiration of the period during which the commissioner is authorized to reduce predator numbers in the predator control plan area.

(D) The commissioner will annually close wolf hunting and trapping seasons as appropriate to insure that the minimum wolf population objective is met.

(10) Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control implementation plan.

(1) Geographical area description. A Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area is established and consists of those portions of the Kuskokwim River drainage within Unit 19(D) upstream from the Selatna River drainage and the Black River drainage, encompassing approximately 8,513 square miles. This predator control program does not apply within National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge lands unless approved by the federal agencies.

(2) Authorization for the department to conduct a predation control program. Notwithstanding any other provision in this title, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area.

(3) Discussion of wildlife population and human use information. In 2001, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (department) established an Experimental Micro Management Area (EMMA) within the Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area to focus predation management and research activities in a relatively small area. The EMMA encompasses lands in approximately 20-mile radius surrounding McGrath (528 mi 2 ). The Board of Game (board) endorsed the EMMA concept and allowed the department discretion to change the size of the wolf predation control program within the Unit 19(D)-East wolf predation control area to allow for adaptive management. Wolf control began in late winter/early spring 2004. Additionally, a bear live-capture/removal research program was conducted in spring 2003 and 2004 to assess the effect on the moose population of removing three species of predators.

(A) Prey population information.

(i) The moose population in 19(D) East underwent a substantial decline during the early 1990s because of severe winters with deep snow and abundant predators. Although this preceded the use of subunit-wide population estimation surveys, Department trend count data, staff observations, and common agreement among local residents leaves little doubt that the moose population was much higher 20 years ago;

(ii) In 2001 the moose population size in Unit 19(D)-East (8,513 mi 2 ) was estimated at 3,959 moose (0.46 moose/mi 2 ; range 2,460-5,494 moose). This estimate was based on a survey conducted in a 5,204 mi 2 area and extrapolations were made to the remaining 3,309 mi 2 portion of 19D-East. In 2004, the moose population size in Unit 19(D)-East was estimated at 4,374 moose (0.5 moose/mi 2 ; range 3,444-5,281 moose). Results of these surveys indicate that moose densities in Unit 19(D)-East show no clear trend because the estimated ranges overlap. Moose densities within the 528 mi 2 EMMA are approximately 1.0 moose/mi 2 and are increasing. The 2004 estimate of 0.5 moose/mi 2 is considered to be within the range of densities associated with Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium (LDDE) moose populations that are predator-limited;

(iii) Parturtion rates for radiocollared female moose in Unit 19(D)-East ranged from 73% to 92% and twinning rates ranged from 25% to 44%, during 2001 through 2005; indicating high productivity;

(iv) In 2001, 25 calves:100 cows were observed, which is substantially lower than the 56 calves:100 cows observed in 2004. The increase in calves:100 cows followed bear removal in springs 2003 and 2004. The bull: cow ratios in 2001 and 2004 were high (>30) indicating adequate number of bulls were available for breeding. In 2001, the ratio of yearling bulls to 100 cows was 7:100. In 2004, yearling bulls:100 cows was 12:100.

(v) Calf survival was low (less than 30%) during 2001 and 2002 (pre-control) and higher (more than 40%) in 2003 and 2004 (during wolf control). Based on calf mortality studies in 19(D)-East during both pre-control and control years, the major predators on moose calves were black bears, grizzly bears, and wolves. Predation was the major cause of mortality in 2001, 2002, and 2003; but 61% of the mortality was attributed to deep snow in 2004. Survival of radiocollared yearling females varied from 74% to 94% during 2001-2005. The highest survival occurred in winter 2004-05. The largest proportion of yearling and adult mortalities was attributed to wolves. Other causes of mortality among yearlings and adults included non-predation natural mortality, legal and illegal take by humans, and grizzly bear predation.

(vi) The Intensive Management (IM) objectives for moose, established by the board for Unit 19(D)-East are a population of 6,000-8,000 moose and a harvest of 400-600 moose. Based on current recruitment and a conservative harvest rate of 4% of the 2004 population estimate of 3,444-5,281 moose, the current harvestable surplus is 138-158 bull moose.

(vii) Habitat quality in Unit 19(D)-East is not currently limiting moose population growth. Over 2300 linear miles of riparian habitat exists in Unit 19(D)-East. Moose browse is generally associated with recent disturbance such as wildfires and flooding of riparian habitats. Wildfires are common and fire suppression efforts are limited in Unit 19(D)-East. Spring flooding conditions along the Kuskokwim River produce substantial ice-scouring that helps rejuvenate willow stands that have grown out of the reach of moose. However, during years with deep snow, forage availability is reduced and moose can starve, particularly calves.

(viii) Browse surveys conducted in Unit 19(D)-East in March 2001 and 2003 indicated low biomass removal rates of 16% and 20%. Twinning rates of radiocollared females were high (24-44%) during 2001 through 2005, also indicating that moose were in good nutritional condition and habitat quality was high. All indications are that habitat in this area will support a substantially higher moose population.

(ix) The number of animals that can be removed from the Unit 19(D)-East moose population on an annual basis without preventing growth of the population or altering the composition of the population in a biologically unacceptable manner is less than the Intensive Management harvest objective established for the population in 5 AAC 92.108. The moose population in Unit 19(D)-East is well below the IM objective set by the board.

(x) Without an effective wolf predation control program, moose in Unit 19(D)-East are likely to persist in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium (LDDE) state with little expectation of increase. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted throughout Alaska and similar areas in Canada indicate that reducing the number of wolves in Unit 19(D)-East can reasonably be expected to increase the survival of calf as well as older moose, particularly yearlings.

(B) Human use information for prey population.

(i) The board identified moose in Unit 19(D)-East as important for providing high levels of harvest for human consumptive use in accordance with AS 16.05.255 (e)-(g).

(ii) The amount necessary for subsistence (ANS) established by the board for Unit 19 is 430-730 moose. The total ANS for Unit 19 is based on average amounts of moose used by residents of communities along the Kuskokwim River in Unit 19, and includes an estimate of subsistence need for moose in Unit 19 by residents of Unit 18. An estimated 130-150 moose are needed for subsistence use by residents of communities in Unit 19(D)-East.

(iii) In recent years, only Alaska residents have been allowed to hunt in Unit 19(D)-East and registration permits are required (RM650). This registration hunt was implemented in 2001 and reporting rates have been high ( + 95%). The number of permits issued ranged between 237 and 293 and has decreased each year. During 2001- 2005, harvest ranged from 60 to 98 moose with a success rate ranging from 35 to 43 percent.

(iv) The nonresident hunting season was closed in 1995. If the season could be opened and the size of the Upper Kuskokwim Controlled Use Area could be reduced, there would be a demand for moose by nonresident hunters also.

(v) Until the IM harvest objective of 400-600 moose has been reached, the demand for more moose will not be met. Based on management experience gained in Unit 19(D)-East, an increase in the moose population is expected if the wolf population is reduced substantially. A reduction in the number of wolves combined with a reduction in the number of bears in the area would result in a greater sustained increase. However, without a wolf predation control program there is a very low probability that the moose population will increase sufficiently to meet local subsistence needs or other harvest demands in the future.

(C) Predator population information

(i) In February 2001, aerial wolf surveys were conducted within a 5,204 mi 2 portion of Unit 19(D)-East. An extrapolated population estimate of 198 wolves (23.3 wolves/1000mi 2 ) for Unit 19(D)-East was calculated from the survey and harvest data. That estimate represents the previous autumn (2000) pre-control wolf population size. The ratio of moose to wolves within Unit 19(D)-East was estimated to be 12:1-28:1.

(ii) In March 2005, aerial wolf surveys were conducted in a 3,210 mi 2 portion of Unit 19(D)-East. An extrapolated population estimate of 103 wolves (12.1 wolves/1000mi 2 ) for Unit 19(D)-East was calculated from the survey and harvest data. That estimate represents the previous autumn (2004) wolf population size. The current ratio of moose: wolves within Unit 19(D)-East is estimated to be 33:1-51:1.

(iii) Kill rates by wolves are affected by availability of moose, snow depth, number of alternate prey, size of wolf packs, and other local factors. In areas of Alaska and Canada where moose are the primary prey of wolves, studies documented kill rates ranging from 4 to 7 moose per wolf per winter. Little alternative prey is available for wolves within Unit 19(D)-East. Some small caribou herds exist in the area, but not at a level sufficient to sustain a wolf population.

(iv) Harvest by humans is the predominant source of mortality for wolves. Natural mortality factors include intraspecific strife, accidents, starvation, and disease. Necropsies performed in spring 2002 and 2003 and data collected from wolf carcasses indicated wolves from Unit 19(D)-East had normal body condition parameters. There is no evidence that natural mortality factors significantly limit wolf population growth.

(v) Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large reductions are required to affect wolf population levels and to reduce predation by wolves on their prey. Research indicates a reduction of about 60-80% of the pre-control wolf population may be necessary to achieve prey population objectives. Once the wolf population has been reduced to the population control objective, annual reductions of less than 60% will likely regulate the wolf population at the control objective. The minimum wolf population objective for Unit 19(D)-East is 40 wolves. That represents an 80% reduction from the pre-control minimum estimated autumn wolf population of 198 wolves (23.3 wolves/1000 mi 2 ). The minimum wolf population control objective will achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, and also ensure that wolves persist within the plan area.

(vi) The moose and wolf populations in Unit 19(D)-East are in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium state where both predator and prey numbers are likely to fluctuate at low levels indefinitely. If wolf predation control efforts continue and the wolf population is reduced according to the wolf population and harvest objectives, the wolf population will be maintained at 40 for several years but once the moose population increases and wolf control efforts are discontinued the wolf population will increase according to the increased prey base.

(D) Human use information for predator population

(i) During regulatory years 1997-98 through 2004-05, reported harvest of wolves ranged from 14 to 39 wolves annually in Unit 19(D)-East. That includes take from hunters, trappers, and wolf control permittees. In 2003 and 2004, 14 of 30 wolves and 17 of 30 wolves, respectively, were taken by wolf control permittees.

(ii) The human population in Unit 19(D)-East is small and concentrated along the Kuskokwim River corridor. There are large portions of the unit that are remote from communities in the region and access is difficult. Many of the trappers from this area use snowmachines and a few use airplanes. In both instances, poor snow conditions can present difficulty in accessing areas and tracking wolves. In addition, the low price of wolf pelts and high cost of fuel make it difficult for local residents to harvest a high number of wolves throughout the unit. Also, pelt quality for most 19D-East wolves is low, which reduces the financial incentive to hunt or trap wolves.

(4) Predator and prey population levels and population objectives and basis for those objectives.

(A) The estimated moose population in Unit 19(D)-East is 3,444-5,281 moose. The moose population objective for Unit 19(D)-East is 6,000-8,000 moose. IM objectives were based on historical information about moose numbers, carrying capacity of the habitat, sustainable harvest levels, and human use.

(B) The pre-control estimated minimum wolf population in Unit 19(D)-East was 198 wolves during autumn 2000. Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large, annual reductions of wolves are required to diminish wolf population levels and predation by wolves on their prey. Consistent with scientific studies and department experience the objective of this plan is to substantially reduce wolf numbers compared to the pre-control level in order to relieve predation pressure on moose and allow for improved recruitment to the moose population. This plan also has as a goal to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the described geographical area. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but ensure that wolves persist within the plan area, the wolf population in Unit 19(D)-East will be reduced to no fewer than 40 wolves.

(C) The minimum wolf population objective for Unit 19(D)-East is 40 wolves, which represents an 80% reduction from the pre-control minimum estimated autumn wolf population of 198 wolves (23.3 wolves/1000 mi 2 ). The minimum wolf population control objective will achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, and also ensure that wolves persist within the plan area.

(5) Justifications for predator control plan.

(A) The estimated size of the moose population in Unit 19(D)-East is 3,444-5,281 moose. The harvestable surplus of moose in Unit 19(D)-East is 138-158 moose which compares favorably with the 130-150 moose needed for local subsistence use. However, local subsistence use is almost entirely restricted to boat-accessible waterways which allow access to only a limited portion of the Unit 19(D) East moose population, hence access to only a limited portion of the harvestable surplus. This is borne out by current harvests of 60-98 moose despite signifiant increases in hunting effort by local users. The board designation of a harvest objective of 400-600 should provide for local subsistence use and other uses as well. The moose population and harvest objectives for Unit 19(D)-East have not been met although progress is apparent. The number of moose in the EMMA is increasing, and the decline in the overall moose population in Unit 19(D) East has been stopped. Continued wolf control can be reasonably expected to further reduce mortality on moose and result in positive growth to the moose population toward the population objective.

(B) With an estimated pre-control population of 198 wolves in 2001, at least 672 moose were being killed each winter. At the population level of 103 wolves, at least 412 moose are killed each winter. Kill rates by wolves are affected by availability of moose, snow depth, number of alternate prey, size of wolf packs and other local factors. In areas of Alaska and Canada where moose are the primary prey of wolves, studies documented kill rates ranging from 4 to 7 moose per wolf per winter.

(C) Reducing wolf numbers through a wolf predation control program, combined with reduction in moose harvest and increased bear harvest, is the approach most likely to succeed in a recovery of the moose population. Wolf harvest through hunting and trapping efforts has not resulted in lowering the wolf population sufficiently to allow the moose population to grow. Implementing restrictions on moose hunting and liberalizing wolf and bear trapping and hunting seasons has not resulted in lowering the wolf population sufficiently to allow the moose population to grow. Since 1995, when the board established a wolf predation control area in Unit 19(D)-East, several restrictions for moose hunting have taken place in the form of closures, season reductions, and registration hunts. Beginning in 1995-1996, the nonresident moose season was closed in Unit 19(D)-East. In 2000 - 2001, the fall season was reduced by 5 days and the winter season was reduced by 15 days. In 2001-2002, a registration permit hunt was implemented and the Upper Kuskokwim Controlled Use Area which prohibits use of aircraft for moose hunting, was expanded to include all lands within the registration permit hunt area. In 2002-2003, the winter season was closed. In 2004-2005, the area that included the EMMA was closed to all moose hunting under the conditions of the registration permit. Also, the fall season was extended by 5 days in the hunt area outside the EMMA in an attempt to accommodate subsistence users need to harvest moose. In addition to restrictions on moose hunting, the board has liberalized some black bear and brown bear regulations in Unit 19(D)-East. In 2001, black bear baiting regulations were liberalized to include a fall season in addition to the spring season. In 2002, a black bear registration permit hunt was implemented to allow the take of 2 black bears in addition to the existing 3 black bear bag limit. In 2004, the brown bear season was extended for both the fall and spring season by a total of 51 days. In addition to liberalizing bear regulations, wolf hunting and trapping regulations have been liberalized. Beginning in 2000, the trapping season was extended by 31 days. In 2002-2003, the board authorized the use of snowmachines to take wolves in Unit 19. In 2004, both of the fall and spring hunting seasons were extended by a total of 41 days.

(D) Presently known alternatives to predator control for reducing the number of predators are ineffective, impractical, or uneconomical in the Unit 19(D)-East situation. Hunting and trapping conducted under authority of ordinary hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits is not an effective reduction technique in sparsely populated areas such as Unit 19(D)-East. Numbers of hunters and trappers are relatively low and educational programs to stimulate interest and improve skills in taking wolves are in the early stages of development, and so far have been unsuccessful in increasing the harvest of wolves. The inherent wariness of wolves, difficult access, and relatively poor pelt prices also explain low harvest rates. Application of the most common sterilization techniques (surgery, implants, or inoculation) are not effective reduction techniques because they require immobilization of individual predators, which is extremely expensive in remote areas. Relocation of wolves is impractical because it is expensive and it is very difficult to find publicly acceptable places for relocated wolves. Habitat manipulation is ineffective because it may improve the birth rate of moose in certain circumstances, but it is poor survival, not poor birth rate that keeps moose population low in Unit 19(D)-East. Supplemental feeding of wolves and bears as an alternative to predator control has improved moose calf survival in two experiments. However, large numbers of moose carcasses are not available for this kind of effort and transporting them to remote areas of Alaska is not practical. Stocking of moose is impractical because of capturing and moving expenses. Any of the alternatives to a wolf predation control program are not likely to be effective in achieving the desired level of predator harvest.

(E) Without an effective wolf predation control program, the wolf harvest objective cannot be achieved and moose in Unit 19(D)-East are likely to persist in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium state with little expectation of increase. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted throughout Alaska and similar areas in Canada indicate that reducing the number of wolves in Unit 19(D)-East can reasonably be expected to increase the survival of calf as well as older moose. Reducing wolf predation on moose, in combination with reducing harvest (particularly of cows), can reasonably be expected to initiate an increase of the moose population towards the population objective. Aerial wolf predation control makes it possible to increase the take of wolves over large expanses of territorial in a vast and remote region like the majority of Unit 19(D)-East. With a reduction in wolf-caused mortality and restrictions in harvest, the moose population is expected to grow.

(6) Methods and means

(A) Hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 19(D)-East during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080.

(B) The commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal pursuant to AS 16.05.783 .

(7) Anticipated time frame and schedule for update and reevaluation

(A) For up to five years beginning on July 1, 2004, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 19(D)-East.

(B) Annually, the department shall provide to the board at the board's spring meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose and wolf populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives.

(8) Other specifications the Board considers necessary.

(A) The commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical.

(B) The commissioner will suspend wolf control activities

(i) When wolf inventories and/or accumulated information from permittees indicate the need to avoid reducing wolf numbers below the minimum management objective of 40 wolves specified in this section; or

(ii) When spring conditions deteriorate to make wolf control operations infeasible; or

(iii) No later than April 30 in any regulatory year.

(C) Wolf control activities will be terminated

(i) When prey population management objectives are attained; or

(ii) Upon expiration of the period during which the commissioner is authorized to reduce predator numbers in the predator control plan area.

(D) The commissioner will annually close wolf hunting and trapping seasons as appropriate to insure that the minimum wolf population objective is met.

(11) Unit 20(E)/12 Wolf and Brown Bear Predation Control Implementation Plan

(1) Geographical area description.

(A) An Upper Yukon/Tanana predation control area (control area) is established and consists of that portion of Unit 12 north of the Alaska Highway and west of the Taylor Highway and that portion of Unit 20(E) within all drainages of the South Fork Fortymile River, the North Fork Fortymile River downstream of its confluence with the Middle Fork Fortymile River, the Middle Fork Fortymile River and Ladue River, compassing approximately 6,600mi 2 . This predator control program does not apply to any National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge lands unless approved by the federal agencies.

(B) A brown bear predation control area (focus area) is established within the Upper Yukon/Tanana predation control area in Unit 20(E) that includes the Southfork Fortymile River drainage upstream from and including the Wall Street Creek drainage, encompassing approximately 2,700 mi 2 .

(2) Authorization for the Department to conduct a predation control program. Notwithstanding any other provision in this title, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the entire Upper Yukon/Tanana predation control area in Units 12 and 20(E), and a brown bear population reduction or brown bear population regulation program in the brown bear predation control focus area in Unit 20E.

(3) Wildlife population and human use information.

(A) Prey population information

(i) The moose population size within the control area was estimated to be 2,310-3,370 in 2004, and 2,840-4,290 in 2005, based upon extrapolation from surveys conducted in a 4,630 mi 2 area of southern Unit 20(E). No trend in population size is apparent from those surveys because confidence intervals around the estimate overlap. Public observations and department surveys indicate moose densities in Units 12 and 20(E) were higher (1.0-1.5 moose/mi 2 ) in the 1960's, but have been lower (less than 1.0 moose/mi 2 ) since the late 1970s.

(ii) Calves and yearling bulls per 100 cows averaged 18 and 9, respectively, during fall 2000-2004. Fall 2005 surveys indicated 23 calves:100 cows and 11 yearling bulls:100 cows..

(iii) Estimated birth rate of moose in the control area is likely 138 calves:100 cows two years of age or older. This is based on research conducted during the 1980s in Unit 20(E), research of other interior Alaska moose populations in similar habitats, and spring twinning rate surveys conducted in southern Unit 20(E) during spring 2004 and 2005.

(iv) Based on current (2004 and 2005) estimates of recruitment and using a 4% harvest rate for bulls, the harvestable surplus of moose within the control area was 93-172.

(v) The Intensive Management (IM) moose population objective established by the Board of Game (board) is 4,000-6,000 moose for Unit 12 and 8,000-10,000 moose for Unit 20(E) within the Fortymile and Ladue River drainages. The entire control area falls within the portions of Units 12 and 20(E) that are identified for IM. Based upon the relative sizes of the areas covered by IM objectives in both units, the proportional population objective for the control area alone is 6,800-8,600 moose. The IM moose harvest objective is 250 - 450 moose annually for Unit 12 and 500 - 1,000 moose annually for Unit 20(E) within the Fortymile and Ladue River drainages. The proportional harvest objective for the control area alone is 425-845 moose. Achieving the population and harvest objectives for the control area will contribute to achieving the IM population and harvest objectives established for Units 12 and 20(E).

(vi) Based on available data, habitat is not a factor limiting moose population growth in the control area. In southern Unit 20(E), high twinning rates of 30% and 24% were observed during spring surveys in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Those twinning rates indicate the habitat is capable of sustaining a higher moose density. In addition, wildfires that result in improved habitat conditions for moose are common in northern Unit 12 and Unit 20(E) and fire suppression efforts are limited over most of this area. Over 1600 square miles of habitat were burned within and surrounding the control area in 2004 alone, which is expected to benefit moose productivity for decades.

(vii) Research conducted during 1981-1988 within the control area indicates brown bear predation on calves and wolf predation on all sex and age classes throughout the year are important factors limiting moose population size and growth in the control area. In the research study area wolves killed 12-15% of neonate moose calves, brown bears killed 52%, and black bears killed 3%. In addition, wolves and brown bears accounted for 89% of all yearling and adult moose mortality during the study. Models developed from data collected during the research project indicated that within the research area, 81% of all moose mortality, within the postcalving moose population, was caused by predation, 4.0% and 15.5% of mortality was caused by hunting and all other causes, respectively. Most brown bear predation occurred during the six weeks following calving, while wolf predation on all sex and age classes occurred throughout the year. Due to current moose harvest restrictions, mortality from harvest by humans is likely not a major limiting factor for the moose population in the control area.

(viii) The number of animals that can be removed from the control area moose population on annual basis without preventing growth of the population or altering the composition of the population in a biologically unacceptable manner is less than the harvest objective for the population. The moose population in Units 12 and 20(E) is well below the IM objective set by the board. The moose population in the control area is also well below the objective calculated by the department for the control area.

(ix) The moose population in Unit 20(E) has been at a low density since the late 1970's. Without an effective predation control program moose in the control area are likely to persist in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium state with little expectation of increase. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted throughout Alaska and similar areas in Canada indicate that reducing the number of predators in the Upper Yukon/Tanana control area can reasonably be expected to result in an increase in the survival of moose. Reducing wolf predation on moose, in combination with the current restricted level of moose harvest, can reasonably be expected to initiate an increase of the moose population towards the population objective.

B. Human use information for prey population

(i) Moose have long been an important subsistence resource for residents of Units 12 and 20(E) including the communities of Chicken, Boundary, Eagle, Eagle Village, Tanacross, Tok, Tetlin, and Northway, and for other residents of Interior, Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. These units also provide important hunting opportunities for non-resident hunters and the guiding and transporting industries.

(ii) For more than 20 years, local communities have expressed concern about chronically low moose density due to predation and have proposed various predator control programs to increase moose numbers and moose harvest to meet their needs. Most recently at the February-March 2004 Board of Game Meeting, the Upper Tanana/Fortymile Fish and Game Advisory Committee and the public provided testimony explaining the problem and made proposals to correct the situation, which resulted in the creation of this control program.

(iii) During 1995-2004 within the control area, an average of 95 moose were harvested annually by an average of 347 resident hunters, while an average of 13 moose were harvested annually by an average of 42 non-resident hunters.

(iv) Both resident and non-resident hunter numbers have been steadily increasing in Units 12 and 20(E) for the past 20+ years. Average annual numbers of resident moose hunters increased 33% (from 300 to 400 hunters) during 2000-2004 compared to 1995-1999. Average annual numbers of non-resident moose hunters increased 62% (from 32 to 52 hunters) between the same two periods. Hunting pressure by both resident and non-resident moose hunters is expected to remain at current levels or continue increasing. If the control program is successful it will help to meet harvest demand for moose in the future. Without a control program there is a very low probability that the moose population will increase sufficiently to meet harvest demands in the future.

C. Predator population information

(i) The pre-control wolf population in the control area was estimated in autumn 2004 (pre-harvest) using information from department surveys during late-winter 2004 combined with sealing records and anecdotal observations. The population in the control area was estimated at 190-250 wolves in 30-32 packs or approximately 28-38 wolves/1000 mi 2 .

(ii) During the winter of 2004-2005 a total of 101 wolves were reported taken in the control area. Of those, 58 were taken by wolf control permittees and 43 were taken by trappers and hunters.

(iii) Following the first year of the control program, the autumn 2005 wolf population (pre-harvest) was estimated to be 147-181, based on information from control permittee reports, department observations, and sealing records. Wolf population levels in remote areas of Alaska such as the Upper Yukon/Tanana predation control area are determined by prey abundance and mortality arising from harvest by humans. Habitat per se is not considered a significant factor in limiting the wolf population because it is not currently limiting moose abundance. There is no evidence of disease among wolves within the control area that has contributed to significant mortality.

(iv) Moose and wolf population data available in fall 2004 indicated the moose-to-wolf ratio was between 11:1 and 15:1. In autumn 2005 the moose to wolf ratio was between 17:1 and 26:1.

(v) Increasing numbers of caribou in the Fortymile herd and the winter migration of the Nelchina Caribou Herd through the control area provides an alternative source of prey for wolves during a portion of the year. However, migrations of these herds into the control area vary each year, so the herds are not consistently available. The presence of caribou in the control area during a portion of the year, primarily during winter months, appears to have allowed the wolf population to increase above long-term average population levels. Early-winter wolf densities within the control area (28-38 wolves/1000 mi 2 ) are well above levels found in other areas of Interior Alaska (16-23 wolves/1000 mi 2 ) in un-manipulated wolf-bear-moose-caribou systems (including portions of the Fortymile caribou range).

(vi) Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large reductions are required to reduce wolf population levels and to reduce predation by wolves on their prey. Research indicates a reduction of about 60-80% of the pre-control wolf population may be necessary to achieve prey population objectives. Once the wolf population has been reduced to the population control objective, annual reductions of less an 60% will likely regulate the wolf population at the control objective. The wolf population control objective for the control area is 50-65 wolves. A minimum population of 50 represents a 74% reduction from the pre-control minimum estimated wolf population of 190 wolves. The minimum wolf population control objective will achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, and also insure that wolves persist within the control area.

(vii) Moose populations in the control area are in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium and numbers are likely to fluctuate at low levels indefinitely. If wolf predation control efforts continue and the wolf population is reduced according to the wolf population and harvest objectives, the wolf population will be maintained at reduced levels (50-65) for several years. Once the moose population increases and wolf control efforts are discontinued, the wolf population will increase according to the increased prey base.

(viii) The pre-control brown bear population within the focus area was estimated to be 135 (range 125-145) bears in June 2004. It was based on extrapolation of a density estimate obtained in central Unit 20(E), including the entire 2,700 mi 2 bear focus area, during 1986 and on intensive research studies conducted in similar habitats with similar bear food resources during 1981 - 1998 in Unit 20(A), 100 miles to the west. This estimate very nearly reflects the habitat carrying capacity for brown bears within the focus area, because the brown bear population is lightly harvested.

(ix) During 1995-2004 the average annual brown bear harvest within the focus area was 5 (range 1-10). During the first year of the control program (January-December 2005), a total of 9 brown bears were taken from the focus area; 2 bears were taken by control program permittees and 7 bears were taken by hunters under state hunting regulations.

(x) Increasing numbers of caribou in the Fotymile herd and the winter migration of the Nelchina herd through the focus area during the past 7 years provides an alternative source of prey for brown bears during a portion of the year. However, migrations of these herds into the brown bear focus area vary each year and primarily occur during the winter when the bears are in dens. Therefore, the herds are not consistently available as a source of prey for brown bears in the focus area.

(xi) Based on research data in Alaska and Canada, a 60 percent reduction in the brown bear population within the 2,700 mi 2 brown bear focus area specified in this program, is expected to result in an increase in moose survival. Restriction on the harvest of cubs and sows with cubs will protect the majority of the reproductive and recruitment components of the brown bear population. This will ensure the brown bear population will remain in the focus area. To achieve the desired reduction in brown bear predation, but insure that brown bears persist within the focus area, the minimum brown bear population objective for the focus area is 54 bears, which represents a 60 percent reduction from the pre-control minimum estimated brown bear population of 135 bears (range 125-145). If brown bear predation control efforts continue and the brown bear population is reduced according to the brown bear population and harvest objectives, the brown bear population will be maintained near the minimum population objective of 54 for several years.

D. Human use information for predator population

(i) Total reported annual harvest of wolves in the control area by both hunters and trappers during 1994-2004 averaged 35 annually (range 15-74). During the winter of 2004-2005 a total of 101 wolves were reported taken in the control area. Of those, 58 were by wolf control permittees and 43 were taken by trappers and hunters under state trapping and hunting regulations.

(ii) Total reported annual harvest of brown bears by hunters in the focus area during 1994-2004 averaged 5 (range 1-10). During the spring and fall of 2005, a total of 9 bears were reported taken in the focus area. Of those, 2 were taken in the brown bear predation control program and 7 were taken by hunters under state hunting regulations.

(iii) The human population in northern Unit 12 and southern Unit 20(E) is concentrated along the Alaska Highway on the south border of the control area and along the Taylor Highway that bisects the control area. There are large portions of the control area that are remote and difficult to access. In addition, the low price of wolf pelts, high cost of caring for brown bear hides and high cost of fuel make it difficult for local residents to harvest a high number of wolves and/or brown bears throughout the unit.

(iv) Without a wolf predation control program in place, wolf take is expected to decrease to pre-control levels. Also, without an effective brown bear predation control program, the harvest of brown bears is expected to remain low.

(4) Predator and prey population levels and population objectives and the basis for those objectives.

(A) The estimated moose population in the control area during December 2005 was 2840-4290. The moose population objective for the control area is 6,800-8,600. This objective is based on the IM population objectives for Units 12 and 20(E) established by the board and the proportion of the land area in the control area that is within the IM portions of Units 12 and 20(E). IM objectives were based on historical information about moose numbers, carrying capacity of the habitat, sustainable harvest levels, and human use.

(B) The pre-control estimated wolf population in the control area was 190-250 during the early fall 2004 (pre-harvest). Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large, annual reductions of wolves are required to diminish wolf population levels and predation by wolves on their prey. Consistent with scientific studies and department experience the objective of this plan is to reduce the pre-control wolf population within the control area by approximately 74 percent. This plan also has as a goal to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the control area. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but insure that wolves persist within the control area, the wolf population in the control area will be reduced to no fewer than 50 wolves.

(C) The pre-control estimated brown bear population in the brown bear focus area was 135 (range 125-145) in 2004. Consistent with studies in Alaska and elsewhere, the objective of this plan is to reduce pre-control brown bear numbers by approximately 60 percent to diminish bear population levels and predation by bears on their prey. This plan includes a goal to maintain brown bears as part of the natural ecosystem within the focus area. To achieve the desired reduction in brown bear predation, and also insure that brown bears persist within the focus area, the brown bear population in the focus area will be reduced to no fewer than 54 bears.

(5) Justifications for predator control implementation plan.

(A) The estimated density of moose in the control area in 2005 was 0.41-0.68 moose mi 2 , with a population of 2840-4290 moose. The harvestable surplus of moose in the control area is estimated at 93-172 and is not sufficient to meet the harvest objective. The moose population and harvest objectives for the control area are not being met because mortality has equaled or exceeded recruitment and moose are currently at low densities Research has shown that wolf and brown bear predation are the primary causes of moose mortality and hence the primary factors limiting moose population growth in the control area.

(B) Kill rates by wolves are affected by availability of moose, snow depth, number of alternate prey, size of wolf packs and other local factors. In Alaska and Canada where moose are the primary prey of wolves, documented kill rates ranged from 4 to 7 moose per wolf per winter (October 1-April 30). With an estimated pre-control population of 190-250 wolves, at least 760 moose are likely to be killed by wolves each winter within the control area.

(C) Reducing wolf and brown bear numbers through a wolf and brown bear predation control program, combined with maintaining a restrictive moose harvest, is the approach most likely to succeed in a recovery of the moose population. Wolf and brown bear harvest through hunting and trapping efforts has not resulted in an adequate reduction in the wolf and brown bear populations to allow the moose population to grow toward the IM objective. Waiver of the $25 brown bear tag requirement in Unit 20(E), outside of the Yukon Charley Preserve, has not resulted in a measurable increase in the brown bear harvest. Public information and education programs have been implemented in Units 12 and 20(E) to improve understanding of the biological effect of predation on moose and caribou and the potential benefits to the moose and caribou populations of increasing harvest of wolves and bears. Education should help to a limited degree in the long-term but is not expected to result in a significant increase in the moose population in the short-term. In 2001, the Unit 12 and 20(E) moose seasons within the majority of each unit and within all of the control area, was restricted from a 14-day August spike-fork and 15-day September any bull moose season, to a 5-day any bull August and a 10-day any bull September season, to exclude the Labor Day weekend and a portion of September when bull moose are relatively venerable to harvest. Also, a registration permit system for Unit 20(E) was established in the same year.

(D) Presently known alternatives to predator control for reducing the number of predators are ineffective, impractical, or uneconomical in the control area. Hunting and trapping conducted under authority of ordinary hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits is not an effective reduction technique in sparsely populated areas such as Unit 12 and 20(E). Numbers of hunters and trappers are relatively low and educational programs to stimulate interest and improve skills in taking wolves and brown bears have been unsuccessful because of the inherent wariness of wolves and brown bears, difficult access, relatively poor wolf pelt prices and expense of preparing brown bear hides as a trophy. Application of the most common sterilization techniques (surgery, implants, or inoculation) are not effective reduction techniques because they require immobilization of individual predators, which is extremely expensive in remote areas. Relocation of wolves and brown bears is impractical because it is expensive, and it is very difficult to find publicly acceptable places to relocate wolves and brown bears. Although habitat manipulation may sometimes improve moose birth rates, research indicates that inadequate moose survival rates, not birth rates, are the primary factor limiting moose population growth in rural areas of Interior Alaska. Supplemental feeding of wolves and bears as an alternative to predator control has improved moose calf survival in two experiments. However, large numbers of moose carcasses are not available for this kind of effort and transporting them to remote areas of Alaska is not practical. Stocking of moose is impractical because of capturing and moving expenses. Any of the alternatives to a wolf and/or brown bear predation control program are not likely to be effective in achieving the desired level of predator removal or are not economically feasible.

(E) Without an effective predation control program, the wolf and brown bear reduction objectives cannot be achieved, and moose in the control area are likely to persist in a Low Density Dynamic Equilibrium state with little expectation of increase. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted in Alaska, including research conducted in portions of the control area, and similar areas in Canada indicated that reducing the number of wolves and brown bears in the control area can reasonably be expected to increase the survival of calves as well as older moose. Reducing wolf and brown bears predation on moose, combined with a conservative moose harvest, can reasonably be expected to initiate an increase in the moose population. Aerial wolf predation control and liberalized methods for taking brown bears make it possible to increase take of these predators over large areas of the control area.

(6) Methods and means

(A) Hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in the control area during the term of the control program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080.

(B) The commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal pursuant to AS 16.05.783 .

(C) The commissioner may reduce the bear population within the brown bear focus area by means and direction included in the Board of Game Bear Conservation and Management Policy (2004-147-BOG).

(7) Anticipated time frame and schedule for update and reevaluation.

(A) For up to five years beginning on January 1, 2005, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in the Upper Yukon/Tanana control area.

(B) Annually, the department shall, to the extent practicable, provide to the board at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose, caribou, wolf and brown bear populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives.

(8) Other specifications the Board considers necessary.

(A) The commissioner shall reduce the wolf and brown bear populations in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical.

(B) The commissioner will suspend wolf control activities

(i) When wolf inventories and/or accumulated information from permittees indicate the need to avoid reducing wolf numbers below the management objective of 50 wolves specified in this section; or

(ii) When spring conditions deteriorate to make wolf control activities infeasible; or

(iii) No later than April 30 during any regulatory year.

(C) The commissioner will suspend brown bear control activities

(i) When extrapolated population estimates for brown bear and/or accumulated information from permittees indicate the need to avoid reducing brown bear numbers below the management objective of 54 bears specified in this section; or

(ii) No later than June 30 during any regulatory year.

(D) Wolf and brown bear control activities will be terminated

(i) When prey population management objectives are attained; or

(ii) Upon expiration of the period during which the commissioner is authorized to reduce predator numbers in the predator control plan area.

(E) The commissioner will annually close wolf hunting and trapping seasons, and brown bear hunting seasons, as appropriate to insure that the minimum wolf and brown bear population objective is met.

(12) Unit 13 Wolf Predation Control Implementation Plan.

(1) Geographical area description. A Unit 13 wolf predation control area is established and consists of all lands within Units 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and that portion of Unit 13(E) east of the Alaska Railroad, except federal lands, encompassing approximately 15,413 square miles.

(2) Authorization for the department to conduct a predation control program. Notwithstanding any other provision in this title, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 13 wolf predation control area.

(3) Discussion of wildlife population and human use information.

(A) Prey population information

(i) Based on extrapolation of fall 2005 count area densities, moose population estimates by subunit were: 3060 in Unit 13(A), 3970 in Unit 13(B), 1170 in Unit 13(C), and 3540 in Unit 13(E).

(ii) Historical moose count area data indicate that habitat carrying capacity has not likely ever been reached by this population. This population peaked during the late 1980s in excess of 20,000 moose for all of GMU 13. During that time, fall data indicated calf:cow ratios unit-wide were at peak levels, suggesting the habitat carrying capacity had not been reached. The subsequent population decline was attributed to seven years of deep snow from 1988 to 1994. An observed twinning rate of 29% in 1992 within eastern 13E, shortly after the population peak, was indicative of a level of nutrition well above what would be expected had carrying capacity been reached.

(iii) The age structure of the population shifted towards older age classes between the mid 1990s and approximately 2003, during which time the calf:cow ratio declined dramatically and remained low. The actual number of calves counted across standard count areas declined 62% from 753 in 1996 to 284 in 2000. Recruitment has slowly improved since 2000. The percentages of calves during the fall 2005 surveys in 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) were 9%, 15%, 13%, and 11% respectively. The percentage of yearling bulls observed during moose counts has also consistently risen across the area since 2001;

(iv) The bull:cow ratio within the Unit 13 moose population has steadily risen over the last 11 years from 16:100 in 1994 to 25:100 in 2005, largely due to changes in harvest regulations. The estimated number of cows in the area is below the management objective. The cow density per square mile observed in trend count areas during fall 2005 surveys in Units 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) were 1.1, 0.8, 0.8, and 0.5 respectively.

(v) Observations during 2004 of radiocollared cow moose in western Unit 13(A) during 2004 indicated 91% parturition among cow moose 3 years of age and up, and 73% parturition among cow moose 2 years of age and up.

(vi) Historically, observed fall calf:cow ratios have been used to indicate initial recruitment within this population considering the majority of calf mortality occurs prior to fall moose counts. Fall calf:cow ratios within this area have steadily risen from 11:100 in 2000 to 18:100 in 2005. The fall 2005 calf:cow ratios observed in 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) were 12:100, 23:100, 18:100, and 16:100 respectively. Estimated annual calf survival between 2001 and 2004 ranged 15% - 31%;

(vii) Harvestable surplus in this area is estimated at 4 to 5 percent of the total moose population based on information from other interior and south-central moose populations. The current harvest rate for subunits 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) is estimated at 3.3 to 3.8 percent of the population.

(viii) The population objectives for Units 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) as established in 5 AAC 92.108 are 3500-4200, 5300-6300, 2600-3500, and 5000-6000 respectively. These objectives are below the maximum moose numbers observed in these areas between 1987 and 1989 and are likely attainable given the history of productivity and survival patterns in this area;

(ix) The moose harvest objectives for Units 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) as established in 5 AAC 92.108 are 210-420, 310-620, 155-350, and 300-600 respectively. The current harvest objectives are fully attainable given the history of harvest patterns in this area;

(x) The estimated annual mortality of radiocollared cows in western subunit 13(A) ranged from 7 - 11 percent between 2001 and 2004. Natural bull mortality across this area likely ranges from 8 - 20 percent depending on snow depths and predation. The average bull harvest from 2000 to 2004 was 159, 149, 75, and 102 for subunits 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) respectively.

(xi) This moose population is considered to have moderate productivity in relation to surrounding interior and south-central moose populations. The moose habitat in Unit 13 has not changed considerably over the past 40 years. This area is generally considered interior boreal forest, and being south of the Alaska Range, this area regularly receives more annual precipitation and thus less frequent fires than adjacent more productive interior Units 12 and 20. Twinning rates have consistently been a key indicator of moose habitat quality. Data from radio-collared cow moose in western subunit 13(A) between 1994 and 2004 indicate moderate twinning rates between 9 and 27 percent.

(xii) Concurrent with the initial adoption of the wolf control implementation plan for this area in 2000, increases in wolf hunting and trapping occurred. This increased effort was concentrated in areas of western Unit 13(A) with good winter access. This initial pressure reduced wolf numbers enough to bring about a slight increase in moose numbers in this isolated area. Moose in the remainder of Unit 13, however, continued to decline. The implementation of same day airborne wolf taking under the wolf predation control plan from January 2004 to January 2006 has effectively halted the moose population decline across subunits 13(A), 13(B), and 13(E). This change is evidenced by increased numbers of adult moose in the portion of Unit 13(A) accessible to aircraft landings, and by small increases in calf and yearling numbers across Units 13(A), 13(B), and 13(E).

(B) Human use information for prey population

(i) Historically, subsistence moose harvest in Unit 13 has been largely managed under permit systems, either by registration, drawing, or Tier II. Harvest in this area has been recorded since the mid 1960s. Since 1980, the annual Unit 13 subsistence moose harvest averaged 149, 77, and 99 for the decadal periods 1980-89, 1990-99, and 2000-04. The subsistence harvest accounted for 13, 10, and 17 percent of the total harvest for the same three periods.

(ii) The average annual number of hunters participating in Unit 13 subsistence moose hunts averaged 465, 391, and 556 for the periods 1980-89, 1990-99, and 2000-2004. These are subsistence permit or harvest ticket holders who reported hunting. Many hunters who were unsuccessful in receiving a state subsistence permit likely took part in the general season; thus reported demand for subsistence is likely a minimum estimate.

(iii) Since 1963, the average annual harvest from general moose hunts in Unit 13 has averaged 1501, 919, 804, 797, and 469 for the decade periods 1963-69, 1970-79, 1980-89, 1990-99, and 2000-04. The general harvest accounted for 83 and 100 percent of the total harvest for the same periods. The average annual number of hunters participating in general hunts averaged 3805, 3071, 3325, 4448, and 2977 for the periods 1963-69, 1970-79, 1980-89, 1990-99, and 2000-04. During three years in the mid 1990s, over 5,500 individuals hunted during the general moose hunt in Unit 13. To help reduce harvest pressure in Unit 13, the moose hunting bag limits were changed in 1990 from one moose across subunits 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(D) to one bull with 36" antlers; spike/fork bulls were also allowed. Between 1990 and 1992, seasons were also shortened considerably; the annual general harvest dropped from 891 in 1989 to 382 in 1990 due to this change. In 1993, a small drawing hunt for cows was implemented in subunit 13(A), though the unit-wide bull bag limit changed to one bull with a spike or fork or 50" antlers or antlers with 3 or more brow tines on one side. The brow tine restriction was increased to 4 or more brow tines in 2001. In 1995, a Tier II hunt was added for any bull unit-wide; 150 permits were available. Since 2002, the nonresident season was closed unit-wide.

(C) Predator population information

(i) It is the intent of this plan to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the geographical area described for this plan. However, studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large annual reductions in wolf populations are required to to reduce predation by wolves on their prey. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but insure that wolves persist within the plan area, population management takes into consideration, the potential for immigration and the availability of alterate prey in the area;

(ii) The fall 2005 population estimate was 260 to 290 wolves, based on wolf and track sightings gathered from staff biologists, hunters, trappers, and pilots, adjusted for documented harvest. Pack observations from wolf control permittees increase the documentation of pack ranges and enhances population estimates.

(iii) The wolf population in Unit 13 peaked at just over 500 wolves during 1999 and 2000. No carrying capacity has been established for wolves in Unit 13, but it is likely above 520 wolves.

(iv) The estimated moose to wolf ratio for Unit 13 ranged from 38.1 to- 43.0 in fall 2004, and improved to 51.8 to 58.6 in the fall of 2005.

(v) Alternate prey in this area include large prey items such as caribou and sheep, as well as relatively abundant beaver, and the cyclic populations of small game such as upland birds and hares. Nelchina Herd caribou, which summer entirely in this area, are relatively abundant, and have ranged between 30,000 and 37,000 animals since 2000. Generally, 10 to 50 percent of the Nelchina Caribou Herd winters in central Unit 13. Sheep are only available in western subunit 13(A), small portions of subunit 13(E), and subunit 13(D) which is outside the control area.

(vi) The number of moose killed by wolves in this area is dependent on snow depth and the abundance of alternate prey, particularly caribou. Depending on snow depth, the availability of alternate prey, and average pack size, wolves in Unit 13 likely take between 1000 and 4000 moose per year.

(vii) The mortality of wolves in this area has historically been dominated by human harvest. Since 2000, the annual harvest of wolves in Unit 13 has averaged 203 (44% of the estimated annual population). Additional natural mortality within this population due to intra-specific strife or old age is likely 5 percent or less.

(viii) The spring (late winter) population objective for Unit 13 was set at 150 wolves throughout the 1980s based on prior evidence that when the wolf population had been maintained at this level, the moose population was able to grow, and provide a desired level of harvestable surplus. In the early 1990s, the Department adopted a range of 135 to 165 wolves as the late winter objective. When applied to the wolf habitat within Unit 13, this equates to a density of 3.3 to 4.1 wolves per 1000 km 2 .

(ix) The annual harvest objective for wolves is the difference between the fall population estimate and the desired population objectives. Preliminary fall estimates are developed using the spring estimate and expected reproductive success however, these preliminary fall estimates and the harvest objectives are continually refined throughout the winter. The preliminary unit-wide harvest objective for the 2005-2006 season, calculated as the difference between the fall population estimate and the desired population objective, was set at 80 to 110 wolves.

(D) Human use information for the predator population.

(i) Harvest of wolves with a firearm (excluding same day airborne take) has been highly variable since the early 1970s and has ranged from 0 to 97 wolves, and 0 to 69 percent of the total take in Unit 13. Harvest of wolves with the use of a snare or trap has similarly been highly variable and has ranged from 20 - 166, and 22 - 83 percent of the total take over the same period.

(ii) Given the difficulty in finding wolves, harvest pressure diminishes as the wolf population declines. Hunter harvest of wolves has always been highly opportunistic, and is difficult to predict. Trapper harvest of wolves is limited by the number of trappers willing to spend the time and effort to target this furbearer and by variable winter travel conditions. In addition to open creeks and regular overflow, many large rivers in the area have stayed open until late-winter, or even year-round, completely eliminating trapping pressure from remote areas of the unit;

(iii) Some hunters and trappers will continue to pursue wolves in Unit 13 regardless of same day airborne wolf control efforts. Considering the majority of wolves taken under wolf control permits are from remote interior portions of the unit, they are geographically separated from most wolf hunters or trappers. If wolf predation control programs are not underway, some of the program participants will simply shift their effort back to ground based harvest, though their efforts will be less effective.

(4) Wolf and prey population levels and population objectives and the basis for those objectives.

(A) The moose population objectives for Units 13(A), 13(B), 13(C), and 13(E) as established in 5 AAC 92.108 are 3500-4200, 5300-6300, 2600-3500, and 5000-6000 respectively. These objectives were based on historical information about moose numbers, habitat condition, sustainable harvest levels, and human use. The objective levels are below the maximum moose numbers observed in these areas between 1987 and 1989 and are likely attainable given the history of productivity and survival patterns in this area;

(B) The pre-control estimated wolf population in Unit 13 was over 500 wolves during fall of 2000. Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large, annual reductions of wolves are required to diminish wolf population levels and predation by wolves on their prey. Consistent with scientific studies and department experience the objective of this plan is to substantially reduce wolf numbers compared to the pre-control level in order to relieve predation pressure on moose and allow for improved recruitment to the moose population. This plan also has as a goal to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the described geographical area. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but insure that wolves persist within the plan area, the wolf population in Unit 13 will be reduced to no fewer than 135 wolves.

(C) The spring (late winter) population objective for Unit 13 was set at 150 wolves throughout the 1980s based on prior evidence that when the wolf population had been maintained at this level, the moose population was able to grow, and provide a desired level of harvestable surplus. In the early 1990s, the Department adopted a range of 135 to 165 wolves as the late winter objective. When applied to the wolf habitat within Unit 13, this equates to a density of 3.3 to 4.1 wolves per 1000 km 2 .

(5) Justifications for the predator control implementation plan.

(A) Unit 13 long has been an important hunting area for subsistence by local area residents and much of the state's population in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna valley, and Fairbanks. It is recognized under the state's intensive management law as an area where moose and caribou are to be managed for high levels of human consumptive use.

(B) The management objectives set by the Board of Game for the moose population and human harvest are not being met. Bans on the same day airborne take of wolves in 1987 and again in 1996 allowed the wolf population to increase. Since the early 1990s the moose population has declined after several years of deep snow and from wolf predation from a record high wolf population. As the moose population declined, calf predation by brown bears accentuated the decline. In an effort to re-initiate predation control activity, the Board of Game established a wolf predation control area covering much of Unit 13 under 5 AAC 92.125(5) in 2000. Though the wolf predation control area had been established, no aerial based action was taken by the state until January 2004 when land and shoot wolf control by state permittees was initiated. The most recent moose trend counts have indicated that while the decline has stopped, the population is only beginning to recover. Further control of wolf predation is necessary to increase the moose population to the objective level.

(C) Continuation of wolf predation control will reduce wolf-caused mortality and improve moose survival. Land and shoot wolf take has been implemented in Unit 13 in the past, and has effectively reduced moose mortality to allow the moose population to increase. The private pilots participating as permittees in this program to date have proven extremely effective in reducing the wolf population when allowed to take wolves on the same day they are airborne

(D) Historical predator/prey management in Unit 13 has shown that when the late-winter (spring) wolf population was maintained at 135 to 165 wolves, annual moose survival was adequate to allow the population to increase.

(E) The unit-wide wolf take is slightly below the harvest objective, in part because the take is split between same day airborne take, hunting, and trapping. The level of take is near objective levels in the central portion of the wolf control implementation area. Hunting and trapping harvest outside the implementation area has been lower and more difficult given the lack of access related to open water and the difficulty in taking wolves that have larger home-ranges due to low prey density. The use of same day airborne techniques allows wolf densities to be reduced in the central portion of the wolf control implementation area, the most important winter moose habitat in Unit 13. Hunting and trapping harvest supplement predation control activities by harvesting wolves along the road system. These complementary programs will effectively reduce the unit-wide wolf population to the objective level.

(F) By reducing year-round mortality on all demographic groups of the moose population simultaneously, the reduction of wolf predation will help ensure a consistent age structure in the moose population as it increases.

(G) Multiple measures have already been taken to improve survival of moose in this area, including the liberalization of seasons and bag limits for wolves, brown bears, and black bears over the past decade. The current wolf hunting and trapping seasons are effectively maximized and any further extensions into the summer season would likely fail to increase the take by any significant amount. The current hunting seasons for brown and black bears are year-round with no resident tag requirement.

(H) Presently known alternatives to predator control for reducing the number of predators are ineffective, impractical, or uneconomical. Hunting and trapping conducted under authority of ordinary hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits is not an effective reduction technique in sparsely populated areas such as Unit 13. Numbers of hunters and trappers are relatively low and educational programs to stimulate interest and improve skills in taking wolves are in the early stages of development, and so far have been unsuccessful in increasing the harvest of wolves. The inherent wariness of wolves, difficult access, and relatively poor pelt prices also explain low harvest rates. Application of the most common sterilization techniques (surgery, implants, or inoculation) are not effective reduction techniques because they require immobilization of individual predators, which is extremely expensive in remote areas. Relocation of wolves is impractical because it is expensive and it is very difficult to find publicly acceptable places for relocated wolves. Habitat manipulation is ineffective because it may improve the birth rate of moose in certain circumstances, but it is poor survival, not poor birth rate that keeps moose populations low in rural areas of Interior Alaska. Supplemental feeding of wolves and bears as an alternative to predator control has improved moose calf survival in two experiments. However, large numbers of moose carcasses are not available for this kind of effort and transporting them to remote areas of Alaska is not practical. Stocking of moose is impractical because of capturing and moving expenses. Any of the alternatives to a wolf predation control program are not likely to be effective in achieving the desired level of predator harvest.

(6) Methods and means.

(A) Hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in Unit 13 during the term of the program may occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080.

(B) The commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal pursuant to AS 16.05.783 .

(7) Anticipated time frame and schedule for update and reevaluation

(A) For up to five years beginning on July 1, 2005, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population within the Unit 13 predation control implementation plan area.

(B) Annually, at the regularly scheduled spring board meeting, the department shall to the extent practicable, provide to the board a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose and wolf populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives.

(8) Other specifications the board considers necessary.

(A) The commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical.

(B) The commissioner will suspend wolf control activities

(i) When wolf inventories and/or accumulated information from permittees indicate the need to avoid reducing wolf numbers below the management objective of 135 wolves specified in this section; or

(ii) When spring conditions deteriorate to make wolf control operations infeasible; or

(iii) No later than April 30 in any regulatory year.

(C) Wolf control activities will be terminated

(i) When prey population management objectives are attained; or

(ii) Upon expiration of the period during which the commissioner is authorized to reduce predator numbers in the predator control plan area.

(D) The commissioner will annually close wolf hunting and trapping seasons as appropriate to insure that the minimum wolf population objective is met.

(13) Unit 16(B) Wolf Predation Control Implementation Plan.

(1) Geographical area description. A mainland 16(B) wolf predation control area is established and consists of all non-federal lands within the mainland portion of Game Management Unit 16(B) encompassing approximately 10,393 square miles.

(2) Authorization for the department to conduct a predation control program. Notwithstanding any other provision in this title, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee may conduct a wolf population reduction or wolf population regulation program in the Unit 16(B) wolf predation control area.

(3) Discussion of wildlife population and human use information.

(A) Prey population information

(i) The moose population for mainland Unit 16(B) was estimated in fall 2005 to be 3193 - 3951 moose, based on aerial surveys in 2003 - 2005 in the unit. This population is composed of subpopulations that reside wholly in the unit; however, a subpopulation from the flanks of Mount Yenlo and in the upper Lake Creek drainage mixes in winter with moose from Unit 16(A) in the Kahiltna River drainage, and a subpopulation from the flanks of Mount Susitna and the drainages of Alexander Creek and lower Yentna River winters with moose from Units 14(A), 14(B), and 16(A) in the lower Yentna and Susitna Rivers;

(ii) Habitat does not appear to be limiting the moose population, or a factor in calf survival, and is not expected to limit the moose population at objective levels. While the majority of the unit is covered with mature forests, moose habitat has changed little since the high moose densities of the early 1980s. Prescribed burning has been the only economically viable option for improving moose habitat and opportunities to conduct controlled burns are limited by climate, access, and privately owned lands with structures dispersed throughout the unit. The minimum moose density objective is 1.0 moose per square mile for mainland Unit 16(B) based on the intensive management objective of 6,500 - 7,500 moose. There are approximately 6,500 square miles of available moose habitat. Presently, mainland 16(B) moose population estimates place the moose density at .55 moose per square mile.

(iii) The age structure of the population is believed to have shifted towards the older age classes in the 1990s as the moose population declined. The number of spike-fork bulls estimated in the mainland 16(B) survey data from 1999 - 2005, which is approximately the same as the number of yearling bulls in the population, showed ratios of 3 to 8 yearling bulls to 100 cows. Assuming these numbers to be half of the year's cohort, this indicates an approximate recruitment rate of 6 - 16 %. Given estimated moose mortality rates in the mainland 16(B) population, the decline in numbers and/or lack of recovery is expected to continue without active predation control activities.

(iv) The bull to cow moose ratio for mainland Unit 16(B) in fall 2003 - 2005 was estimated to be 23 to 35 bulls per 100 cows. This is similar to average bull to cow ratios of 24 to 44 observed in the unit in the mid - 1990s, thus the herd is presently above the management objective for this parameter.

(v) Limited flights to count newborn calves and natality data from radiocollared moose indicated that 80 percent of adult cows gave birth, with 50 percent of these having twins. Together, these data indicated a birth rate of 122 calves per 100 cows;

(vi) The calf to cow moose ratio during fall moose surveys from 2003 to 2005 ranged between 14 and 23 calves per 100 cows, with estimated over-winter calf mortality of 40 percent, resulting in a recruitment rate of 8 to 14 moose per 100 cows. Information collected from radio-collared moose in December following parturition indicate a calf survival rate of 8 percent and a calf to cow ratio of 10:100 which is lower that the ratio of 14 calves per 100 cows counted during the November survey of the population in the study area. The reason for the difference between natality and recruitment appears to be largely due to predation.

(vii) The current harvestable surplus (for 2006) is estimated to be 140 bulls, well under the minimum of 199-227 harvestable moose needed to meet the amount necessary for subsistence. This number is a reflection of the overall decline of the moose population even though bull to cow ratios have been consistently at or above objective. As a result, the moose herd has provided only limited resident-only harvest for several years.

(viii) The Intensive Management population objective established by the Board of Game for the mainland Unit 16(B) moose population is 6,500 - 7,500, and the Intensive Management harvest objective is 310 - 600.

(ix) The decline in the mainland Unit 16(B) moose population is attributed to poor calf survival, high adult mortality, and the inability of the population to recover from the impacts of recurring deep snow winters; snow depths have exceeded 37 inches in 22 of 35 winters. The mainland Unit 16(B) moose population is considered to be reduced substantially from the early 1980s when estimates ranged from 8500 to 10,000 moose and is currently at about half of the IM population objective.

(x) Without an effective wolf predation control program, moose in Unit 16(B) Mainland are likely to persist at low numbers or continue to decline. Data from moose mortality and predator/prey studies conducted throughout Alaska and similar areas in Canada indicate that reducing the number of wolves in Unit 16(B) Mainland can reasonably be expected to increase survival of calf as well as older moose, particularly yearlings.

(B) Human use information for prey population.

(i) Reported subsistence harvest has varied from 30 to over 120 moose, and some additional subsistence harvest occurs within the general fall hunting season when one is held. During Regulatory Year 2003-2004 Tier II subsistence harvest was 80; in RY 2004 - 2005 it was 79.

(ii) High demand for subsistence moose is demonstrated by the 900 to 1100 applicants who annually apply for the 260 Tier II permits available for mainland Unit 16(B). Additional subsistence demand exists within the unit and is captured by the limited general resident-only hunting opportunity that has occurred in September in recent years.

(iii) All general season and fall Tier II moose bag limits were reduced in 1993 to one bull with a spike or fork or 50" antlers or antlers with 3 or more brow tines on one side. Non resident moose hunting opportunity was first reduced to a portion of Unit 16(B) in 1993 and completely eliminated in 2001. All general season hunting was closed in 2001 and 2002 and only a limited Tier I subsistence (resident only) season was allowed in 2003-2005. The average general season harvest was 388 from 1983 through 1989 and declined to 168 from 1990 - 1999. Recent resident-only seasons in 2003 and 2004 produced 83 and 84 bulls, respectively. In 2005, 53 bulls were reported harvested.

(iv) There is a small, limited demand for moose to provide for rural federal subsistence hunting on federal lands within mainland Unit 16(B). There is some interest in moose for viewing opportunities in portions of the unit where guides and other operations provide services that promote wildlife viewing.

(v) It is unlikely that the demand in mainland Unit 16(B) for moose for subsistence and general hunting opportunity will decline. Given the increasing human population in the nearby Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley areas as well as historic local subsistence use, it is probable that demand will match any increase in harvestable surplus gained through active management of the moose herd.

(C) Predator population information,

(i) The fall 2005 wolf population in mainland Unit 16(B) was estimated to be 85 - 114 wolves in 10 to 12 different packs, a density of approximately 0.82 to 1.1 wolves per 100 square miles.

(ii) Habitat carrying capacity for wolves is dependant upon prey availability and competition from other predators such as brown and black bears. Carrying capacity for wolves in Unit 16(B) mainland has not been determined, however harvest from sealing records supplemented by reports from trappers and hunters have indicated that the wolf population had increased. The average annual harvest from sealing records during 1984-88 was 6.6 compared to a single year harvest in 2002-2003 of 60.

(iii) In mainland Unit 16(B) the current wolf to moose ratio is between 28 and 46 moose per wolf. The pre-control (2003) estimated ratio was as low as 17:1. Historically, estimates have ranged as high as 250 moose per wolf in this unit.

(iv) Alternate prey include caribou, sheep, beaver, and hare. For most wolves in mainland Unit 16(B) there are few options for alternate prey. Small populations of caribou and sheep exist in the higher elevations of the western side of the unit. However pack territorial structure probably prohibits most wolves from accessing this resource, thus limiting them to smaller prey such as beaver and hare.

(v) The number of moose that are killed by wolves in any given year in this area is highly dependent on the depth of winter snowfall, competition with other predators and the abundance of alternate prey. In Alaska and areas of Canada where moose are the primary prey of wolves, studies documented kill rates ranging from 4 to 7 moose per wolf per winter. Using this range with our current population estimate of wolves in mainland Unit 16(B) wolves are estimated to be capable of taking between 340 and 798 moose per winter

(vi) Mortality factors affecting wolves in mainland Unit 16(B) include human harvest, other wolves, and disease. Harvest of wolves in the unit has increased from a low of 2 animals in the winter of 1990-1991 to 50 in the winter of 2003-04. Total wolf take for 2004-2005 was 115 animals with 91 of those taken in the predator control program that was initiated in January of 2005.

(vii) It is the intent of this plan to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the geographical area described for this plan. However, studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large, annual reductions in wolf populations are required to reduce wolf population levels and predation on their prey. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but insure that wolves persist within the plan area, the wolf population objective for Unit 16 B mainland is set at between 22 and 45 wolves.

(viii) Wolf harvest objectives in mainland Unit 16(B) mainland have been set in an attempt to reduce the wolf population to the population objective in mainland Unit 16(B) of between 22 and 45. This would require a reduction in wolves from hunting, trapping, and the control program of between 40 and 92 animals at the current wolf population level.

(ix) Without a predator control program in the Unit 16(B) mainland area, it can be expected that the wolf population will increase to numbers at or above their historic high levels. Current trends in fuel prices, low fur prices, and low quality of wolf pelts in the unit due to the louse infestation, have resulted in a decrease in the hunting and trapping effort in the area, thus removing the major cause of wolf mortality. If the predator control program continues it is expected that the wolf population will be reduced toward the IM population objective.

(D) Human use information for predator population;

(i) Harvest of wolves with a firearm (excluding same day airborne take) has been highly variable since the early 1980s and has ranged from 0 to 27 wolves. Since 2000 firearms have accounted for an average of 19 wolves annually, or 36 percent of the harvest. Harvest of wolves with the use of a snare or trap has similarly been highly variable and has ranged from 1 to 48. Since 2000, traps and snares have accounted for 23 wolves annually, or 44 percent of the harvest.

(ii) Mainland Unit 16(B) receives less trapping pressure than some other areas of the state. Hunter harvest of wolves has always been opportunistic, and is difficult to predict. Trapper harvest of wolves is limited by the number of trappers willing to spend the time targeting this furbearer amidst variable winter travel conditions. Winters have begun later, and have been highly variable in temperature and snowfall in recent years creating hazardous conditions for winter hunters and trappers. In addition to open creeks and regular overflow, many large rivers in the area have stayed open until late-winter, or even year-round, completely eliminated trapping pressure from remote areas of the unit.

(iii) Most Unit 16(B) trappers will continue to pursue wolves in the unit regardless of same day airborne wolf control efforts. Trappers in the unit pursue many different furbearers and do not consider the control program a detriment to their opportunities. If the wolf control program were to be discontinued trapper harvest would likely increase to some extent. The hunters that take wolves in mainland Unit 16(B) do so opportunistically and would therefore not be seriously affected by the status of the wolf control program.

(4) Predator and prey population levels and population objectives and the basis for those objectives.

(A) The fall 2005 moose population was estimated to be 3193 - 3951 moose, compared to the Intensive Management objective of 6500 - 7500. The IM objective was developed by the Board of Game based on historical moose population size and trends, habitat condition, sustainable harvest levels, and human use.

(B) The pre-control population of wolves in the fall of 2003 was 160 - 220. Studies in Alaska and elsewhere have repeatedly concluded that large, annual reductions of wolves are required to diminish wolf population levels and predation by wolves on their prey. Consistent with scientific studies and department experience the objective of this plan is to substantially reduce wolf numbers compared to the pre-control level in order to relieve predation pressure on moose and allow for improved recruitment to the moose population. This plan also has as a goal to maintain wolves as part of the natural ecosystem within the described geographic area. To achieve the desired reduction in wolf predation, but ensure that wolves persist within the plan area, the wolf population in mainland Unit 16(B) will be reduced to no fewer than 22 wolves.

(C) The spring (late winter) wolf population objective for Unit 16(B) was set at 22 - 45 wolves based on prior estimates of the wolf population size in the area when the moose population achieved high densities in the past.

(5) Justifications for predator control implementation plan.

(A) The Board of Game determined the moose population in mainland Unit 16(B) is important for providing high levels of human consumptive use; the board established objectives for population size and annual sustained harvest of moose is consistent with multiple use and principles of sound conservation and management of habitat and all wildlife species in the area; the objectives of the predation control program are to halt the decline of the moose population within the predation control area and to increase the fall (post-hunt) moose population to the Intensive Management objective of 6,500 - 7,500 moose, providing a sustainable annual harvest of 310 - 600 moose.

(B) The population objectives for moose in mainland Unit 16(B) are not being met and this is largely due to high predator numbers and the inability of the moose population to recover given the high predation rates;

(C) A reduction in wolf numbers, in conjunction with a reduction in bear numbers through liberalized bear hunting opportunities, is necessary to enhance survival of mainland Unit 16B moose, to halt the population decline, and to achieve population objectives in the wolf predation control area. During the 1970s and 1980s, same day airborne hunting of wolves by the public, at little or no cost to the department, effectively kept the wolf population at levels well below present levels, and moose populations were increasing or stable; trapper and hunter harvests in the last 10 years has averaged less than 2.5 wolves per trapper and hunter.

(D) Moose population objectives are not being met although trapper and hunter harvests of wolves have increased over the last 10 years for mainland Unit 16(B). Maximum harvest opportunity appears to have been provided although the wolf numbers have been above the population objective since the early 1990s. The current spring population objective in the control area is 22 - 45 wolves in 3 - 5 packs, the fall wolf population estimate is 85 - 114 wolves in 10 - 12 packs;

(E) Previous programs utilizing same-day-airborne hunting of wolves effectively kept the wolf population at levels well below present levels, and moose populations were increasing or stable. Airplane-based control of wolf populations is necessary to reduce numbers over short periods of time and allows for a more timely recovery of the moose population.

(F) Multiple measures have been taken to improve survival of moose within mainland Unit 16(B). General predator hunting and wolf trapping seasons alone have failed to result in sufficient reductions of predators and increased numbers of moose. Liberalization of seasons, bag limits, and other restrictions on harvest for bears and wolves have shown no detectable effect on the moose population in the unit. Currently there is a year-round season for black bear with a three bear limit and no tag required for brown bear with a two bear limit.

(G) Presently known alternatives to predator control for reducing the number of predators are ineffective, impractical, or uneconomical in the Unit 16(B) situation. Hunting and trapping conducted under authority of ordinary hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits is not an effective reduction technique in sparsely populated areas such as Unit 16(B). Numbers of hunters and trappers are relatively low and so far have been unsuccessful in increasing the harvest of wolves to the extent of having a positive effect on the moose population. The inherent wariness of wolves, difficult access, and relatively poor pelt prices also explain low harvest rates. Application of the most common sterilization techniques (surgery, implants, or inoculation) are not effective reduction techniques because they require immobilization of individual predators, which is extremely expensive in remote areas. Relocation of wolves is impractical because it is expensive and it is very difficult to find publicly acceptable places for relocated wolves. Habitat manipulation is ineffective because it may improve the birth rate of moose in certain circumstances, but it is poor survival, not poor birth rate that keeps moose populations low in rural areas of Interior Alaska. Supplemental feeding of wolves and bears as an alternative to predator control has improved moose calf survival in experiments. However, large numbers of moose carcasses are not available for this kind of effort and transporting them to remote areas of Alaska is not practical. Stocking of moose is impractical because of capturing and moving expenses. Any of the alternatives to a wolf predation control program are not likely to be effective in achieving the desired level of predator harvest.

(6) Methods and means

(A) Hunting and trapping of wolves by the public in mainland Unit 16(B) during the term of the program will occur as provided in the hunting and trapping regulations set out elsewhere in this title, including use of motorized vehicles as provided for in 5 AAC 92.080.

(B) The commissioner may issue public aerial shooting permits or public land and shoot permits as a method of wolf removal pursuant to AS 16.05.783 .

(7) Anticipated time frame and schedule for update and reevaluation.

(A) For up to five years beginning on July 1, 2003, the commissioner may reduce the wolf population in Unit 16(B).

(B) Annually, the department shall to the extent practicable, provide to the board at the board's spring board meeting, a report of program activities conducted during the preceding 12 months, including implementation activities, the status of moose and wolf populations, and recommendations for changes, if necessary, to achieve the plan's objectives.

(8) Other specifications the board considers necesssary.

(A) The commissioner shall reduce the wolf population in an efficient manner, but as safely and humanely as practical.

(B) The commissioner will suspend wolf control activities

(i) When wolf inventories and/or accumulated information from permittees indicate the need to avoid reducing wolf numbers below the management objective of 22-45 wolves specified in this section; or

(ii) When spring conditions deteriorate to make wolf control operations infeasible; or

(iii) No later than April 30 in any regulatory year.

(C) Wolf control activities will be terminated

(i) When prey population management objectives are attained; or

(ii) Upon expiration of the period during which the commissioner is authorized to reduce predator numbers in the predator control plan area.

(D) The commissioner will annually close wolf hunting and trapping seasons as appropriate to insure that the minimum wolf population objective is met.

History: Eff. 10/1/93, Register 127; am 8/18/95, Register 135; am 7/1/96, Register 138; add'l am 7/1/96, Register 138; am 7/27/97, Register 143; am 2/22/2000, Register 153; am 7/1/2000, Register 154; am 7/19/2000, Register 155; am 1/3/2001, Register 156; am 7/1/2001, Register 158; am 8/22/2001, Register 159; am 7/26/2003, Register 167; am 7/1/2004, Register 170; am 1/1/2005, Register 172; am 7/1/2005, Register 174; am 1/26/2006, Register 177

Expires May 25, 2006 unless made "permanent" by the adopting agency.

Authority: AS 16.05.255

AS 16.05.270

AS 16.05.783

Editor's note: A copy of the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Plan (October 1995) incorporated by reference in 5 AAC 92.125(4) is available by writing to the Division of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 25526, Juneau, AK 99802-5526, or is available for inspection at the Lieutenant Governor's Office in Juneau.

A copy of the Board of Game Bear Conservation and Management Policy (2004-147-BOG) incorporated by reference in 5 AAC 92.125(8) (B)(v) may be obtained by writing to Department of Fish and Game, Board Support Section, P.O. Box 25526, Juneau, AK 99802-5526.

Publisher's note: The text of this emergency regulation is set forth in Register 177 (April 2006) as filed.


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Last modified 7/05/2006