The terrain of Coronation Island, which Alaska
biologists stocked with wolves in 1960.
Photo by Dave Klein.
This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute, and originally wrote this column in 2004. Rozell is currently out of state.
The killing of wolves to boost moose and caribou populations in Alaska has made headlines all over the country. Back in 1960, a government program to stock an Alaska island with wolves received less attention.
Alaska had been a state for one year when its Department of Fish and Game conducted a wolf-planting experiment on Coronation Island in southeast Alaska. At the time, the remote 45-square-mile island exposed to the open Pacific had a high density of blacktailed deer and no wolves. In 1960, biologists from Fish and Game released two pairs of wolves on the island.
The experiment was the only wolf-stocking effort undertaken in Alaska and probably worldwide at that time, said Dave Klein, a professor emeritus with the University of Alaska’s Institute of Arctic Biology. Klein, who had studied deer on the island for his Ph.D. thesis, helped the state make the decision to transplant wolves on Coronation Island.
“Alaska had just become a state and you had a brand new Department of Fish and Game staffed with young biologists who wanted to do things based on biology rather than a mix of politics and science. It’d be much more difficult to do it now.”