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Rare Alaskan Wolf to be Protected by Endangered Species Act

First Posted: Mar 29, 2014 01:20 PM EDT

The Alexander Archipelago wolf located in southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest may soon receive protection from the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Populations of this wolf subspecies are in a serious decline in recent years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered taking action on the rare Alaskan wolf back in the 1990s, but then new protective standards for the Tongass National Forest were adopted. But now, conservationists and wildlife organizations have mentioned that logging in the Tongass is disrupting the habitats of the wolves.

Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition in 2011 regarding the safety of the Alexander Archipelago wolf and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now weighing the decision of whether or not to considered the wolf subspecies as "endangered" or "threatened." Their petition cited logging and infrastructure construction as the two actions immediately disrupting the wolves, their habitats, and their prey.

"The Alexander Archipelago wolf, one of Alaska's most fascinating species, needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act if it's to have any chance of survival," said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the center, in this Los Angeles Times article.

The wolf is a subspecies of the gray or timber wolf. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides a formal list of what is affecting the conservation of these wolves, which are right in line with the Greenpeace and Center for Biological Diversity petition: "loss of long-term carrying capacity for deer due primarily to extensive timber harvesting, increased mortality of wolves associated with improved human access from roads, and continued high levels of harvest of wolves by humans," as seen on the department's website.

Early taxonomists considered the Alexander Archipelago wolf to be a distinct subspecies. Recent taxonomy found that they may have at one point inhabited most of the contiguous Western U.S. Their typical pack sizes range from 2-12 year round, but 7-9 in early autumn, most likely in preparation for the winter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to make a decision on the Alexander Archipelago wolf within the year.

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