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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management 1 Introduction BACKGROUND The governor of Alaska, Tony Knowles, suspended the state's wolf control program in late 1994 shortly after taking office because he judged it to be unacceptable in its treatment of both wolves and nontargeted species. He stated that he would not reinstate the predator control program unless it met 3 tests: it must be based on solid science, a full cost-benefit analysis must show that the program makes economic sense for Alaskans, and it must have broad public support. In July 1995, Governor Knowles asked the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a scientific and economic review of the management of wolves and bears in Alaska. Management to enhance moose and caribou populations in Alaska typically includes management of wolves and bears. The essence of wolf control is that wolf populations are reduced, usually by killing wolves, so that more moose and caribou are available for human use. Bears also compete with people for moose and caribou, although they have received considerably less attention than wolves. The committee's task was difficult because the scientific and economic issues are embedded in a complex political and ethical context. Lifestyles and cultures in Alaska range from those of people who depend almost completely on wildlife resources to those of people who buy all their food at supermarkets. Alaskans exhibit the full array of values about natural resources, but Alaskans as a group are more knowledgeable about wolves and more committed to coexisting with them than are people elsewhere (Kellert 1985). At the same time, Alaskans have more utilitarian and less preservationist attitudes toward wolves than do
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management people elsewhere in the United States. Owing to the large amount of federally managed land in Alaska and its great expanses of wilderness, people living outside Alaska have strong interests in resource management in the state, and they believe that they have a right to influence wildlife management policies in Alaska. Given that Alaska's tourism industry is second only to fishing in number of people employed, the presence of outsiders is an unavoidable fact of today's world; but many Alaskans resent it. Scientific and economic approaches cannot resolve ethical and esthetic disagreements about predator control and management. However, management policies are more likely to be acceptable if the public has confidence in the scientific and socioeconomic analyses on which management is based than if the underlying science and economic analyses are in dispute. Once the distraction of disputed science is eliminated, conflicts in wildlife management that go beyond scientific issues can be better clarified, an essential step toward ensuring broad public support. History of Wildlife Management in Alaska Aboriginal Alaskans have hunted and trapped wolves for thousands of years. The extent of their past influence on wolf populations is unknown. During the early part of the 20th century, both the government and private parties conducted indiscriminate wolf control. Bounties were paid for wolves. During the 1950s, the federal government conducted systematic wolf control with poison and aerial shooting, which reduced wolf numbers in many parts of Alaska. When Alaska became a state in 1959, the newly formed Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) suspended all wolf control programs and reclassified wolves as big game animals and furbearers. The state was divided into 26 game management units (GMUs), and unit-based management was initiated (figure 1.1). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a series of severe winters coincided with high numbers of wolves and bears and, in some areas, very high harvests of moose and caribou by people. As a result, ungulate populations declined rapidly over much of Alaska. In response, ADFG reduced or eliminated hunting of moose and caribou, embarked on a program of fire management to improve habitats, and conducted limited wolf control programs. In some areas, these programs appeared to restore prey populations. The programs were not controversial at the time, but attitudes toward wildlife have changed since then. Current Wildlife Management in Alaska Wildlife management policies in Alaska are set by the Board of Game (BOG) whose members are appointed by the governor. Management of wildlife in Alaska has been carried out by ADFG's Division of Wildlife Conservation, although management of subsistence use of wildlife has undergone change in recent
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management FIGURE 1.1 Game management units of Alaska. Alaska is divided into 26 Game Management Units (GMUs), many of which are larger than entire states. For example, GMU 20 is larger than the state of New York. ADFG has conducted wolf control programs in GMUs 13, 19, 20, and 21. Wolf control programs in GMUs 13 and 20 are discussed in Chapter 5. The dots in the table indicate where big game species can be hunted.
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management years. The commissioner of fish and game, who is appointed by the governor, heads ADFG and is designated an ex officio member of BOG. The commission also presents regulatory and policy proposals to BOG for consideration and approval. ADFG is responsible for implementing policies approved by BOG. BOG has constitutional and statutory authority to set game policy direction and to regulate game harvest and management on the basis of proposals by ADFG and the public, but it has no fiscal authority. ADFG prepares the budget for its management practices which is subject to the Governor's approval as well as that of the legislature. Nevertheless, ADFG has considerable latitude in adopting and implementing BOG regulations and policies. Not surprisingly, relationships between the 2 bodies under these conditions are sometimes contentious. In 1989, state management of wildlife for subsistence use was determined to be out of compliance with federal subsistence requirements. Since then, a Federal Subsistence Board has been established to develop regulations for subsistence use of wildlife on federal public lands in Alaska. BOG retains authority for regulating subsistence use of wildlife on state and private lands. Most management actions implemented by ADFG are not controversial, but wolf control and management in Alaska have become increasingly difficult because public perceptions of predators' roles and values and of the ethics of predator control are changing. Conflicts among people with different interests in wolves are intense. As a result, groups that could be united in ensuring the future well-being of wildlife populations regularly work at cross purposes. The first concerted effort to resolve the conflict over wolf management began in 1988 when the Division of Wildlife Conservation decided to attempt to develop a broadly acceptable management plan with full and effective public participation. The division opened communication with a wide array of groups and individuals to discuss wildlife management. The Wolf Management Planning Team was formed in 1990; its 12 members were selected by the Division of Wildlife Conservation from among 70 nominees proposed by all groups interested in wildlife management. The team members represented rural and urban hunting, guiding, trapping, ecotourism and wildlife protection interests. A representative from a national conservation group and the deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation also served on the team. All members shared the goal of maintaining viable wolf populations throughout the state, and they indicated a willingness to work with others to find acceptable solutions. A member of BOG monitored and advised the panel. The team met monthly from November 1990 through April 1991 and submitted its final report to the Division of Wildlife Conservation in June 1991. The final report was based on a detailed review of information about wolf biology, predator-prey relationships, population dynamics, past control efforts, and hunting and trapping statistics. The team held 2 public forums and considered a wide range of management options. The report articulated goals, principles, and strategies for habitat conservation and set forth consumptive (hunting and trapping)
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management and nonconsumptive (ecotourism and wildlife viewing) uses of wolves that its members believed should guide all management plans. The key management strategy was a system of 6 zones that varied from areas where no wolves would be killed to areas of intensive management where wolf control would be allowed. The report also outlined the conditions under which wolf control should be carried out. The division then drafted a strategic wolf management plan that incorporated nearly all the team's recommendations. The draft plan was released to the public in September 1991, and it was discussed in numerous public meetings throughout Alaska. In late October 1991, the planning team and BOG held a 2-day workshop to review the plan for its consistency with the team's recommendations. After a 2-day public hearing, BOG invited 2 members of the planning team and several members of the public to join in a detailed revision of the plan. The revised plan, which was unanimously adopted by BOG, required the Division of Wildlife Conservation to prepare area-specific management plans for all of Alaska. Priority was given to preparing plans for game management units 11, 12, 13, 14, and 20—areas where wolves were believed to be substantially suppressing prey populations. Area-specific plans were prepared, reviewed, revised, and finally adopted by BOG in November 1992. The board also adopted 3 implementation plans for areas where wolf control could occur in 1993. At that time, many groups with different interests were willing to accept the compromise proposals which allowed for limited wolf control, and it appeared that consensus among the major interests in the state had been reached. But the apparent consensus was to be short-lived. Some environmentalists who had participated in the planning process and agreed to limited wolf control felt that BOG, in making its final determinations in a closed session, did not appreciate the magnitude of their concessions. Also, BOG underestimated the strength of concerns of people living outside Alaska. Release of the board's plans triggered national and international attention. Some of the information that was publicized about the scope and intent of the program was inaccurate or misleading, and many people outside Alaska were not sufficiently informed to distinguish between accurate and misleading information. Whatever the accuracy of the portrayals of the wolf control program, the result was a call for a national boycott of tourism in Alaska, organized by a coalition of animal rights groups. The resulting social and economic pressures were so great that on December 4, 1992, Governor Walter Hickel suspended all wolf control pending a summit meeting in Fairbanks to which conservation, environmental, and animal rights groups were invited. On December 22, the commissioner of fish and game suspended all aerial wolf control in 1993—an action that stopped the tourism boycott. About 1,500 people attended the summit, which was held January 16–18, 1993. Professional facilitators were hired to conduct the meeting. Speakers reviewed wolf natural history, predator-prey dynamics, the planning process,
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management effects on tourism, and Alaskan, national, and international perspectives on wolf management. Participants divided into 9 groups facilitated by representatives of the Office of the Ombudsman to discuss the planning process and management decisions. From the lists of consensus points compiled by the groups, the facilitators identified the following issues of agreement: The planning process used, especially that involving the Alaska Wolf Management Planning Team, was good, and ADFG need not start over. ADFG should begin active education and information efforts about wolves. The Wolf Specialist Guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 1983) regarding wolf control and some elements of the Yukon Territory's wolf management plan (Yukon Renewable Resources 1992) should be incorporated into Alaska's wolf management plan. The state needed to take steps to make its BOG and advisory committee process more broadly representative of the public's diverse interests. More time was required for a fair and open public process to be successful. All 9 groups concluded that wolf control might be appropriate under some conditions, but the short time available prevented them from reaching consensus on when and how. On January 26, 1993, BOG repealed all area-specific plans and amended the strategic wolf plan to delete all references to zone management. The Division of Wildlife Conservation was instructed to prepare new regulation proposals that would give the board greater flexibility in addressing wolf control and management. The Division of Wildlife Conservation drafted 2 proposals: one to deal with the chronically low numbers of the Fortymile caribou herd; the other to deal with the continuing decline of the Delta caribou herd. At its meeting in June 1993, the board authorized a 3-year experimental ground-based control program for game management unit 20A. Its goals were to reverse the decline of the Delta caribou herd, to provide a harvest of 600–800 caribou by 1996, and to determine the effectiveness of ground-based wolf control. ADFG initiated its wolf control program in GMU 20A during the autumn of 1993. In April 1994, it announced that 98 wolves had been trapped by the agency and another 52–54 by private trappers in GMU 20A. Wolf control was reinitiated during the autumn of 1994 but was abruptly terminated by Governor Knowles in response to an event on November 29, 1994. On November 28, 1994, a biologist hired by animal rights groups to monitor the state's wolf trapping program flew over GMU 20A and observed what he believed to be a dead wolf in an ADFG snare. He returned by helicopter the next day, accompanied by 2 reporters on the Anchorage Daily News staff. They
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management landed and located 4 wolves in snares; only one was dead. Several hours later, an ADFG agent arrived at the scene to dispatch the wolves, one of which had mutilated itself. Because the agent used improper ammunition, 5 shots were required to kill the first wolf. The incident was filmed and later was aired widely on television in the United States where it precipitated a powerful negative reaction across the nation. THE COMMITTEE AND ITS MANDATE In July of 1995, Governor Knowles wrote to the National Academy of Sciences requesting that it consider undertaking this study. He noted that the issues surrounding control and management of predators to increase the harvest of moose and caribou are of great interest not only to Alaskans, but to people across the country (see appendix A). Acknowledging that there will always be disagreement about predator control from ethical and other perspectives, he expressed hope that public confidence in the science and socioeconomics on which management is based would go a long way toward public acceptance of a management program. The National Research Council (NRC) is the operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences. The NRC's Commission on Life Sciences' Board on Biology appointed the Committee on Management of Wolf and Bear Populations in Alaska. The committee members include people with expertise in ecology, population biology, mammalogy, wildlife management and policy, and economics (see appendix B). Several of the committee members are Alaskans; others have worked in Alaska on wildlife biology or economic issues. Members were appointed not only on the basis of their expertise, but also to provide a variety of perspectives. As with all NRC committees, committee members served as individuals and not as representatives of particular organizations, and the study was conducted independently of the sponsor, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The committee was asked to assess Alaskan ''wolf management and control and bear management." ADFG defines these terms in very specific ways and these definitions are used by the committee in this report (see box). The mandate to the committee was to address wolf and bear management from both biological and economic perspectives, and to address each of the questions listed below: Biological Aspects To what extent do existing research and management data provide a sound scientific basis for wolf control and brown bear management in Alaska? To what extent does current knowledge allow accurate prediction of the effect of a predator control program on predator and prey populations?
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management Definitions used by ADFG Wolf control—a program defined in regulation (5AAC 92.110) by the Board of Game designed to reduce a wolf population to a specified level in a specific geographic area for a designated period of time to increase one or more prey species to meet population objectives for those species as adopted by the Board in regulation. Wolf management—establishment on an area basis of population goals, objectives, activities, and regulations (seasons, bag limits, and methods and means of take) consistent with the principles of sustained yield to ensure the long-term viability of a wolf population. Brown/grizzly bear management—establishment on an area basis of population goals, objectives, activities, and regulations (seasons, bag limits, and methods and means of take) consistent with the principles of sustained yield to ensure the long-term viability of a brown/grizzly bear population Source: Wayne Regelin, Division of Wildlife Conservation, ADFG What critical data gaps exist in scientific understanding about predator and prey populations, and what would be needed to fill them? Economic Aspects What existing economic studies and economic research methods can be used to evaluate the economic costs and benefits of wolf and bear management? What additional economic methods or data would be necessary for a comprehensive assessment of the economic costs and benefits of such management and control programs? What strengths and limitations should be considered in assessing these economic analyses? The committee was also asked to synthesize current biological, ecological, and behavioral knowledge relevant to the assessment and implementation of wolf control and brown bear management in Alaska, including an analysis of how accurately one can predict the effect of wolf control and brown bear management policies on predator and prey populations; to assess how economic analysis could be used to predict the costs and benefits of wolf control in Alaska; and to address issues in decision-making and develop a decision-making framework that incorporates the results of the biological and economic review. This included an assessment of the factors that need to be taken into account when evaluating the
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management utility of predator control and management programs from both scientific and economic perspectives. HOW THE COMMITTEE CARRIED OUT ITS TASK The overall goal of this report is to assist the state of Alaska in its efforts to use the best available scientific and economic data in making and implementing wildlife management decisions. The committee recognizes that wildlife biologists and managers in Alaska must base their decisions on information gathered from a vast land, much of which is inaccessible by road. Inevitably, data on populations of large mammals in many parts of the Alaskan landscape are sparse. This situation is likely to persist indefinitely because the financial and human resources needed to gather detailed population data on large mammals in the entire state are unobtainable. Therefore, the committee's most important task was to determine the degree to which additional information would be likely to change a management decision, to improve the ability to predict the outcome of implementing a management program, and to increase public confidence that decision-making was using all available relevant information and that the information was analyzed and interpreted appropriately. In other words, the committee attempted to assess the marginal value of additional information from the perspective of the uses to which the information would be put. Scientists and managers generally use the same information in different ways because they make different kinds of decisions. Typically, scientists demand a high degree of certainty before they accept the validity of a hypothesis or theory; that is, without convincing data they are reluctant simply to assume that a hypothesis is true. Such caution is appropriate because acceptance of false hypotheses can cause serious disruptions in the progress of scientific knowledge; moreover, there usually is no urgency in reaching conclusions. However, if management decisions are delayed while additional scientific data are gathered, a management policy has, de facto, been established. For example, in deciding how much information is needed before a decision is made to reduce or not to reduce a predator population, managers face the following dilemma. If they adopt very high standards of data completeness before initiating any action, they allow existing conditions to continue. If population reduction would be effective under the circumstances, they risk allowing the current situation to deteriorate. But if they initiate a reduction program based on relatively sparse data, they risk wasting scarce financial and human resources on an ineffective management option and eroding public confidence in the management agency. Therefore, in its assessment of the adequacy of scientific, sociological, and economic knowledge supporting control and management actions, the committee attempted to determine the likelihood that additional information would lead to
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management different management decisions. In addition, we asked which information collected during a management program would be most valuable in removing uncertainties that have important policy implications. For example, if a control program is initiated when the available information is judged to be barely sufficient to justify the decision, what information should be gathered during the program to enable a manager to decide in a timely manner to terminate or continue the program? Should the same information be gathered if a decision to control was based on extensive data? Because the control and management of wolves and bears in Alaska encompass a broad array of scientific and economic issues that vary geographically, the committee used a variety of methods to assemble the information that it needed to carry out its mandate. The committee held 4 meetings in the period from September 1996 to March 1997, 3 in Seattle and 1 extended meeting in Alaska that included forums in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and 3 villages. Before the first meeting of the committee, letters were sent to the full array of organizations concerned with wolf and bear management in Alaska. The committee solicited responses from organizations in and outside Alaska, from organizations opposed to wolf control, from proponents of wolf control, and from those with no formal position but whose members might be influenced by different management policies. The organizations included tourism associations and associations of sport hunters, Alaskan Natives, trappers, and animal welfare advocates. All recipients of letters were invited to submit written statements containing their views about the most appropriate and most feasible goals for predator control and management in Alaska. They were asked to identify and, if possible, provide information that the committee needed to analyze. All recipients were encouraged to pass the letters of invitation to other persons and groups that might have information useful to the committee. To cast its information-gathering net even more broadly, the committee established a site on the World Wide Web where information about the study was posted and where interested parties were invited to submit data. Notices inviting members of the general public to present information to the committee were placed in the Anchorage and Fairbanks newspapers. During its meetings in Alaska on October 23–26, 1996, the committee met with members of the Alaska Board of Game, and with wildlife scientists, managers, and social scientists employed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Biological Service (now the Biological Resources Division of the US Geological Survey), and the University of Alaska. It also met with independent scientists. Committee members flew to and discussed predator management and control with Alaskan Native leaders and local residents in Aniak, Galena, and McGrath. During public sessions in Anchorage and Fairbanks, the committee received oral presentations and written statements from a wide variety of concerned people. The committee also compiled and analyzed scientific publications on relationships
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management between wolves, bears, and their prey, and control and management programs in Alaska and northwestern Canada. At its first meeting, the committee determined that its efforts should be focused mainly on 5 mammal species. It selected the 3 predators: wolf (Canis lupus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), and American black bear (Ursus americanus). Of the various prey, it selected 2 for primary attention: caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and moose (Alces alces). Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli) and black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), which are also preyed on by wolves and bears, are not discussed in detail in this report because the goal of wolf and bear reductions typically has been to increase moose and caribou populations. Collectively, large-hooved herbivorous mammals—such as moose, caribou, deer, sheep and goats—are called ungulates, and this term is used throughout the report. The committee analyzed all available information on the economic values of consumptive and nonconsumptive use of the focal species in Alaska and data on public attitudes toward predators, their prey, and the goals and methods used in predator management and control. The most important categories of information used by the committee in preparing its report were the following: The goals and objectives of wolf and bear control and management in Alaska as perceived by varied segments of the Alaskan public. Such information is necessary because evaluations of the adequacy of information that supports control efforts must be tied to the objectives of the control programs. Alaskan Natives' and other Alaskan residents' knowledge of predators and prey in Alaska, the spatial and temporal scales of their knowledge, and how such knowledge is preserved and communicated. Information can be gathered and interpreted in different ways, and local and traditional knowledge is an important source of information about wild populations. Different segments of the Alaskan population have different relationships with wildlife populations, and, consequently, they have different perceptions of the need for and goals of predator control programs. Information on trends in populations of predators and prey in managed and unmanaged areas. Relationships between predators and prey constitute the fundamental data used by managers to determine when and where particular management or control efforts might be expected to accomplish their intended goals. There are few areas in Alaska where no management of predators and prey takes place, but the type and intensity of management efforts differ widely from area to area. Control efforts are typically initiated in areas where biologists and managers believe that predators are preventing prey populations from increasing, because in such situations predator control can possibly result in substantial increases in prey population densities. Information on past control programs. The data that were used by managers to justify the need for a control program, the conditions when the
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management control program was launched, the type of control that was carried out, and the responses of both predators and prey to the control efforts are the major empirical data that the committee used to assess the adequacy of the scientific underpinning of management and control decisions. Attitudes of all segments of the Alaskan population toward predator management and control and the methods used to accomplish them. Although the mandate to the committee did not include an assessment of public attitudes and values concerning predator management and control, public responses to control programs have important economic repercussions. Therefore, the committee needed this information for its task of assessing the economic implications of management decisions. The economic value of consumptive and nonconsumptive use of the target species. Alaska residents and visitors interact with and value predators and their prey in many ways, not all of which can readily be quantified in monetary terms. To accomplish its mandate, the committee gathered information on the current economic value of wolves, bears, and their prey to different user groups. It then discusses how economic value of wildlife should be considered. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT In chapter 2, the committee provides a concise history of predator management and control in Alaska. This information establishes the attitudinal and institutional contexts in which current predator and prey management is carried out. Then, in chapter 3, the committee first provides an overview of Alaskan biomes and habitats and the relevant life-history traits of the species of concern. That information gives the ecological context in which predator and prey management is carried out. Then, in chapter 4, the committee provides a summary of current theories about predator-prey interactions and how they have guided the implementation of predator control programs in Alaska and northern Canada. This constitutes the conceptual context guiding management decisions. In chapter 5, the committee analyzes past predator control efforts in Alaska and northwestern Canada to determine the success of those efforts and the degree to which they provide a basis for predicting success or failure of future control efforts. Chapter 6 reviews Alaska's current economy and the contributions of consumptive and nonconsumptive use of wildlife to the economic welfare of citizens of the state and then evaluates the economic implications of predator control programs and how they are carried out. A review of how economic information is used by Alaskan agencies in making wildlife management decisions is also provided. Chapter 7 takes a closer look at decision-making in wildlife management and
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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management analyzes in greater detail the implications of the fact that such decisions must always be made under conditions of substantial scientific and social uncertainty. Chapter 8 presents the committee's conclusions and recommendations. The committee emphasizes that in its recommendations it is not attempting to tell the state of Alaska whether to implement predator control or when and where control might be carried out. Indeed, the committee was not mandated to make such recommendations. Instead, its recommendations embody the committee's suggestions of how scientific, sociologic, and economic information should best be used to make such decisions. The recommendations also include the committee's suggestions as to the most-important information gaps that need to be filled if predator management and control decisions and implementation are to receive broad public support. REFERENCES IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). 1983. 15th session of the General Assembly of IUCN and 15th IUCN technical meeting. Gland, Switzerland. Kellert SR. 1985. Public perceptions of predators, particularly the wolf and coyote. Biol Cons 31:167–189. Yukon Renewable Resources. 1992. The Yukon wolf conservation and management plan. Whitehorse. 17 Pp.
Representative terms from entire chapter: