State Disagrees with Positive Finding on Southeast Alaska Wolf Listing Petition
— ADF&G Press Release

Doug Vincent-Lang, Commissioner
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, Alaska 99811-5526

Press Release: July 26, 2021

CONTACT: Commissioner Vincent-Lang, 907-465-4719,

State Disagrees with Positive Finding on Southeast Alaska Wolf Listing Petition

July 26, 2021 (Juneau) — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) strongly disagrees with the positive 90-day finding issued today by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) indicating that the petition to list wolves in Southeast Alaska under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be warranted. Today's decision will initiate a Species Status Assessment (SSA) that will be used to determine whether the population will be listed under the ESA.

A petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, and Defenders of Wildlife in July 2020 maintained that wolves in Southeast Alaska are genetically distinct from those in neighboring British Columbia and the rest of Alaska. The petition requested that the USFWS declare wolves in Southeast Alaska to be a Distinct Population Segment and to list them as threatened or endangered under the ESA with critical habitat designated for the population. The petition cited hunting and trapping harvests, effects of logging on the habitat and abundance of Sitka black-tailed deer, their primary prey, climate change, and loss of genetic diversity leading to inbreeding depression as threats.

Most of the potential threats cited by the current petition were evaluated when wolves in Southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia were previously petitioned in 2011. In January 2016, the USFWS determined that listing was not warranted, and little has changed since that decision. The primary difference is that the 2016 decision evaluated threats to all wolves living in Southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia, whereas the current petition asks that the USFWS evaluate the status of wolves inhabiting Southeast Alaska only. Since 2016, ADF&G has gathered new information on wolf diet, population structuring, and genomics, and wolves throughout the region remain productive and abundant, with no evidence of inbreeding depression. Threats to wolves related to climate change are highly speculative, and ADF&G does not believe they can be reliably forecasted.

"The move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that could potentially list Southeast wolves under the ESA is another regulatory tool the federal government uses to exert extra jurisdictional control over Alaska and appease radical environmental groups that want to lock up our state," said Governor Mike Dunleavy. "Not only is the ESA listing unwarranted, it ignores the legitimate needs of Alaskans residing in the area and our state's legitimate management authority."

"It's disappointing that USFWS would issue a finding that wolves in Southeast Alaska may warrant listing under the ESA when there is no scientific evidence of range-wide declines," said Doug Vincent-Lang, ADF&G Commissioner. "A decision to list these wolves would unnecessarily impact wolves and deer and the habitats they occupy, that support food security and economic opportunities in Southeast Alaska. This effort seems more focused on exerting federal control over landscapes rather than on conserving wolves, which have not declined nor are threatened with extinction."

If listed, this action would impact the ability of subsistence hunters to meet their needs as the Department would no longer be able to manage wolf populations to ensure amounts necessary for subsistence for deer will be attained. Recently, three Prince of Wales tribal organizations supported a proposal by the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, which represents the interests of rural hunters in Southeast Alaska, to increase wolf harvest levels to increase deer numbers.

ADF&G will actively coordinate with the USFWS on the planned SSA, and we believe information and analyses developed for that assessment will support a third unwarranted decision.