8
Conclusions and Recommendations

INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, the committee summarizes the results of its analysis of the biological, socioeconomic, and decision-making underpinnings of management of wolves, bears, and their principal mammalian prey (with focus on moose and caribou) in Alaska. The results are presented as conclusions; recommendations flow from many but not all of them. The committee makes no recommendations about whether predator control should be carried out. To attempt to do so would go well beyond its mandate. Whether and when to control or not control predators is a policy decision to be made by the Alaska Board of Game on the basis of input from the public and recommendations and data provided by state and federal agency personnel. The role of the committee is to advise on how scientific, socioeconomic, and decision-making data can best be used to assist managers to make wise decisions.

BIOLOGICAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

With respect to the biological bases of wolf and bear management, the committee was asked to evaluate 3 questions:

  • To what extent do existing research and management data provide a sound scientific basis for wolf control and grizzly bear reductions in Alaska?

  • To what extent does our current level of 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 8 Conclusions and Recommendations INTRODUCTION In this chapter, the committee summarizes the results of its analysis of the biological, socioeconomic, and decision-making underpinnings of management of wolves, bears, and their principal mammalian prey (with focus on moose and caribou) in Alaska. The results are presented as conclusions; recommendations flow from many but not all of them. The committee makes no recommendations about whether predator control should be carried out. To attempt to do so would go well beyond its mandate. Whether and when to control or not control predators is a policy decision to be made by the Alaska Board of Game on the basis of input from the public and recommendations and data provided by state and federal agency personnel. The role of the committee is to advise on how scientific, socioeconomic, and decision-making data can best be used to assist managers to make wise decisions. BIOLOGICAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS With respect to the biological bases of wolf and bear management, the committee was asked to evaluate 3 questions: To what extent do existing research and management data provide a sound scientific basis for wolf control and grizzly bear reductions in Alaska? To what extent does our current level of 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 What critical data gaps exist in our scientific understanding about these populations, and what would be needed to fill them? The first 2 questions pertain to the cumulative results of past efforts to gather data and perform experiments. The 3rd question asks about the directions of future research. Because the first 2 questions are really different ways of looking at the same data, we combine them into a single composite question: in attempts to understand interactions between moose and caribou and their habitats and predators, have appropriate types of data been gathered, and has enough been learned from past research to identify the information needed to enable us to predict quantitative responses of prey populations to predator control efforts? The knowledge needed to make wise predator management decisions includes information on interactions between predators and their prey, on interactions between prey and their habitats, and on long-term population dynamics of the key species. The committee's biological conclusions are divided into 2 categories: broad conclusions that pertain to assessing population trends, and narrow conclusions that pertain to biological aspects of wolf control. Conclusion 1: Wolves and bears in combination can limit prey populations. The committee concludes that there is clear evidence that under some conditions wolves and bears can keep moose and caribou populations suppressed for many years and that under appropriate conditions predator control can accelerate the recovery of prey populations. Alone or with bears, wolves can keep moose and caribou populations at levels below the carrying capacities of their environments. Reducing predator numbers can release this regulation temporarily. Nonetheless, even in the cases of predator removal with the most extensive data, the evidence is insufficient to establish the existence of dual stable states, that is, one relatively stable state with high densities of both predators and prey and another with stable state with low densities of both. Moreover, field data are rarely sufficient for rigorous identification of how long prey densities are likely to remain high after predator control stops. Conclusion 2: Wolf control has resulted in prey increases only when wolves were greatly reduced over a large area for at least 4 years. There are only three cases, two of which have been conducted in Canada, in which sufficient data were collected to determine whether wolf and/or bear reductions caused an increase in adult populations of moose or caribou. Although there are confounding variables in each of the three cases, air-assisted wolf reduction

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management for at least 4 years in fairly large areas apparently resulted in increases in caribou and moose calf:cow ratios followed by increases in adult populations. There have been no cases in which reduction of bear populations has resulted in increases in adult populations of moose or caribou. In many cases the experimental design was not adequate, the area was apparently too small, and/or the control effort not extensive enough. Our review of past attempts at wolf control indicates that it is likely to be successful when air-assisted wolf reduction is used over an area of at least 10,000 km2; wolves are the primary predator of all age classes of the targeted ungulates; wolves are reduced to at least 55% of their precontrol numbers for at least 4 years; and the weather is favorable for ungulate survival. Under these conditions, moose and caribou may increase—at least during the years of control and perhaps longer. If the above conditions are not met, reducing the number of wolves is unlikely to increase ungulate populations. Predator management might have worked more often than this in the past, but there is no scientific justification for the thesis that it has. This conclusion is not a criticism of the ADFG, which has often not been given the resources to use proper experimental designs for management actions. The sizes of areas treated and duration of treatments are often determined independently of the factors that influence wolf-prey dynamics. That many of the examples of unsuccessful predator control in Alaska were not well-designed and were a poor use of time and money as far as contributing to scientific understanding of predator-prey relations is to be expected in a program in which management, not research, has been the primary objective. We commend the ADFG for having been able to carry out basic research while simultaneously being responsive to requests from a variety of stakeholders. Recommendation: Wolves and bears should be managed using an "adaptive management" approach in which management actions are planned so that it is possible to assess their outcome. That way managers can learn from the experience and avoid actions with uninterpretable outcomes or low probability of achieving their stated goals. Management agencies should be given the resources to conduct their management projects as basic research. Conclusion 3: Expectations that managed populations in Alaska will remain stable are not justified. People naturally prefer stable resources, and many consider this a reasonable goal for wildlife management. However, in northern ecosystems, such as those in Alaska, major population fluctuations are typical; stable populations are not. Natural fluctuations are the background against which management must work. Populations of prey are generally either increasing or decreasing when predator management begins. It is extremely difficult to tell how close a prey population is to the carrying capacity of its environment at a particular time. By perturbing the natural system, management could increase prey populations above the carrying

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management capacity of the environment, and cause a deeper crash than would otherwise have taken place. That is apparently what happened in the 1970s after the massive predator control efforts of the 1950s. Recommendation: Management objectives aimed at achieving stable populations of wolves, bears, and their prey should recognize that fluctuations in populations can be expected and provisions made for them. Before any predator management efforts are undertaken, the status of the predator and prey populations should be evaluated (including whether they are increasing or decreasing), and the carrying capacity of the prey's environment should be evaluated. Conclusion 4: Data on habitat quality are inadequate. Habitat quality is an important determinant of the dynamics of populations of large mammalian herbivores and omnivores. Predator control efforts are likely to succeed in increasing prey populations only if sufficient habitat of adequate quality exists to support the expanded populations—that is, only when prey populations are well below the environmental carrying capacity. The primary deficiencies in current scientific understanding of what factors regulate and limit moose and caribou populations in interior Alaska and what management methods might be best are: (a) there has been too much emphasis on predator/prey relationships at the expense of other environmental factors. Research and experiments on diet, habitat relationships, and fire ecology are badly needed; (b) the ecology of both brown and black bears and their impact on moose and caribou are poorly understood; and (c) air-assisted wolf reduction and poisoning are the only methods that have been successful in the past, both are no longer socially acceptable, and little research has been conducted on alternative methods. ADFG scientists have developed sound methods for monitoring wolves, moose, and caribou in the last 20 years, and more recently for bears. They have overemphasized the use of calf:cow ratios as an indication of ungulate population growth and should put more effort into measuring changes in adult population sizes. Nevertheless, they are to be commended for their many high-quality publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. More complete data are needed, particularly about habitat quality for moose and caribou and their related physiological status, and about the ecology of bears. Short-term data dominate the existing database, but are insufficient for predicting long-term prey population trends. Intensive studies of caribou-habitat and moose-habitat relationships, like those carried out on the Kenai, need not be duplicated in each area where there are plans to intensify management of caribou or moose. Nevertheless, a biologically justifiable scheme for intensive management involving reduction of predators of moose or caribou in a specific area must be based on data that suggest that the habitat can support an increased population. Current information is insufficient

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management to allow reasonably quantitative predictions of probable increases in moose and caribou populations, because habitat quality estimates are rough and knowledge of bear population densities is poor. Attempts to increase moose or caribou populations in the past have been unsuccessful when knowledge of those factors was inadequate. Recommendation: Research on alternative control methods should be adaptive, in the sense that it should be informed by the history of past successful and unsuccessful efforts. There should be more attention to experimental design and monitoring of results. Changes in both the population growth rate of the prey species and hunter satisfaction should be monitored. Recommendation: ADFG should broaden the scope of its studies of predator and prey species. It should collect better data on habitat quality and on bear ecology. They should continue to increase its development of long-term data sets. Additional data are especially needed on bear foraging and population ecology, on quantitative and qualitative changes in habitats, and on the long-term consequences of predator control. The use of controlled fire should be further investigated as a tool for increasing the carrying capacity of moose habitat. Future research on these topics needs to be coordinated among the agencies that share jurisdictional authority over wildlife and wildlife habitats. Recommendation: Collaborative relationships among ADFG and the land management agencies and jurisdictions should be strengthened so that habitat studies and habitat management efforts are well-coordinated. Conclusion 5: Modeling of population dynamics will enhance the use of data already collected and enable more efficient use of limited resources. Data collection on population trends and status of wolves, bears, caribou, and moose is expensive in terms of personnel, time, and equipment. Modeling of population dynamics offers a powerful means of analyzing and interpreting these data. With long-term data sets, modeling can greatly improve attempts to identify causal factors in predator and prey population trends. In the last decade, advances in computer technology have enabled the development of new methods for analyzing complex data sets, which have led to a revolution in the discipline of population modeling. Given the expense of data collection, modeling is a cost-effective way to use limited resources, and investment in expertise in population and resource modeling enhances the ability to synthesize and interpret field data. Conclusion 6: Wolves, bears, and their prey are vulnerable to human actions but in different ways. Although many people perceive wolves and bears as imperiled species, given the extent of natural habitats, the size and inaccessibility of much of Alaska,

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management unintentional extirpation of any of these species from large areas is extremely unlikely. There might be concern for wolves in some areas of southeastern Alaska, but these are not areas where wolf control has been contemplated. Although wolves were extirpated from the lower 48 states through habitat destruction associated with the expansion of agriculture, and through intensive poisoning, trapping, and hunting to protect domestic animals, natural ecosystems remain largely intact in Alaska, because agriculture and other land developments have been minimal, and species on which wolves can prey are abundant. The capacity of wolves for rapid recovery after population reductions remains unimpeded in Alaska. Nevertheless, these predators and their prey differ dramatically in their vulnerability to human activities. Bear populations can be reduced quickly by liberalized hunting regulations where access is adequate; because of their low reproductive rates, they recover slowly. Furthermore, because bears are difficult to census it is particularly difficult to assess when populations are overharvested, another reason to manage them very conservatively. Even though bears kill many moose and caribou calves, it is not clear that reducing bear populations will cause an increase in the adult populations of moose or caribou. Moose and caribou also have low reproductive rates and can easily be (and have been) overharvested. Sex-specific harvests, which result in highly skewed adult sex ratios, can also lead to reduced reproductive rates. But wolves have high reproductive potential and disperse widely such that their populations often can withstand annual harvest rates as high as 35% and keep their numbers stable from year to year. Where wolves have been suppressed, their populations have recovered rapidly. Bears, in contrast, have recovered slowly from suppression. Recommendation: Wildlife policy makers in Alaska should be more sensitive to signs of overharvest and more conservative in setting hunting regulations and designing control efforts, particularly with respect to moose, caribou, and bears. Conclusion 7: The design of most past experiments and the data collected do not allow firm conclusions about whether wolf and bear reductions caused an increase in prey populations that lasted long after predator control ceased. Of the 11 cases of predator control analyzed by the committee, only 1 actually measured changes in hunter behavior, and only 2 provided evidence that prey densities increased in later years. (The committee did not review the many cases of predator reduction that lasted only a year.) Some of the others showed increases in fall calf:cow ratios, but those ratios might not be strongly correlated with later population increases. In the 2 experiments in which prey densities were known to increase, wolves were reduced by air-assisted shooting by more than 40% per year for more than years over large areas, and the reductions were accompanied by both reduced hunting pressure on prey and mild winters. In the

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management first case, GMU 20A, subsequent increases in moose and caribou lasted 16 and 14 years, respectively. However, because there was a simultaneous reduction in human harvest of moose and caribou, the conclusion that wolf control was responsible for the increase is uncertain. In the second case, in Finlayson, caribou densities increased after wolf control, but not enough time has elapsed to judge whether the increase will be more than temporary. Again, the experiment is confounded because human harvest of the prey species was greatly reduced at the same time. In addition there was a significant increase in mineral exploration after the wolf reduction ended. In other words, even in the 2 successful predator control efforts, the relative contributions of predator control and reduced harvests cannot be determined. The results of the other control experiments were either negative or so seriously confounded with other possible causes as to be uninterpretable. Recommendation: Future experiments should be based on more thorough assessment of baseline conditions and should be designed so the causes of subsequent population changes can be determined. Conclusion 8: Perfect prediction is unattainable. Even if predator control experiments are well designed and based on extensive scientific data, consistent prediction of their results is, in principle, unattainable. That is because all estimates of population data are associated with errors and unpredictable events; droughts, severe winters, and fire can dramatically and quickly change environmental conditions. Therefore, both managers and the general public must accept that occasional failure to achieve intended goals will always be part of wildlife management actions. Conclusion 9: Many past predator control and management activities have been insufficiently monitored. Potentially valuable information that could have permitted more thorough evaluations and interpretations of results have often not been gathered. Many cases of predator control have suffered from incomplete treatments because of political interference. All control and management activities are expensive, so it is important to make full use of each one. Recommendation: All control activities should be viewed as experiments with clear predictions. Control activities should be designed to include clearly specified monitoring protocols of sufficient duration to enable determination of whether the predictions are borne out and why.

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management SOCIOECONOMIC CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS With respect to the economic bases of wolf and bear management, the committee was asked to evaluate 3 questions: What existing economic studies and economic research methods can be used to evaluate the full economic costs and benefits of a predator control program for consumptive and nonconsumptive uses of wildlife resources in Alaska? What additional economic methods or additional data would be necessary for a comprehensive assessment of the economic costs and benefits of a predator control program? What strengths and limitations should be considered in assessing those economic analyses? Conclusion 10: Benefit-cost analyses of management changes require at least three categories of information: biological relationships among predators, prey, and their environment; human behavioral response to changes in perceived quality of the use in question (for example, hunting success); and frameworks for valuing the change in use (or availability) of the resource. Those data are needed because the goal of management programs is not simply to increase or decrease populations of animal species, but rather to increase the quantity and quality of human interactions with these species. Purely biological measures do not capture those values. The economic implications of management changes that affect wildlife (biological) populations can be properly understood only when all 3 values (biological, human, and monetary) are linked. Critical elements of these methods include defining the types of use at issue, the relevant user populations, and the spatial extent of the market for the resource's services. For example, use might not be limited to hunting by Alaska urban and/or rural populations, but might include nonconsumptive (viewing, existence value) uses by populations both inside and outside Alaska. How the problem is correctly framed makes a substantial difference to the outcome of the analysis. Recommendation: A set of studies should be commissioned to analyze hunting and viewing bear, wolves, moose, and caribou using techniques such as travel cost. This study should distinguish between values of Alaskan residents and nonresidents and Alaskan Natives and non-Natives. These studies should be designed both to provide information needed to determine the costs and benefits of different management policies and to provide a template for subsequent benefit-cost studies to be conducted by ADFG. Conclusion 11: Evaluations of Alaska predator control programs have not gathered, analyzed, and assessed the full economic costs and benefits. Existing socioeconomic studies have not measured benefits and costs for all

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management relevant human populations, have used too limited or incorrect parameters for the user populations that have been examined, and have been too narrowly defined spatially to identify net effects in the spatial market of interest (for example, substitution and human response to management changes have not been measured). Analyses of the response by hunters and others to changes in wildlife populations have been quite limited. Densities of hunted animals are only one of several factors that influence hunter behavior and hunter success. Therefore, using only biological data on the treated population and a control population is insufficient. Recommendation: ADFG should increase its efforts to evaluate human responses to management actions on spatial and temporal scales large enough to match the scale of the affected market. Travel cost models and contingent valuation should be applied to past and future management actions to improve assessments of value. Conclusion 12: Social science research in Alaska is needed to support the design and evaluation of predator control experiments. The Alaska Native cultures in rural Alaska have distinctive, diverse, and extensive mores and traditional practices concerning subsistence hunting and gathering. In several cases, applied anthropological research by the Division of Subsistence has led to changes in wildlife management (for example, bear management in northwestern Alaska). In some cases, particularly where cultural or ethical issues are dominant, the most appropriate social science perspective is not an economic one. The committee believes that collection and analysis of relevant economic, social, and cultural data could improve decision making by ADFG. A social and economic impact assessment that generates information on the costs and benefits of particular decisions; analyzes the perceptions of various demographic groups regarding these decisions; and evaluates the cultural consequences of the decision will increase the likelihood that decisions are based on valid and reliable data and will probably prevent particular interest groups from unduly influencing decisions. This requires continuing data collection on human populations analogous to those obtained on wildlife populations. These data are equally as important as biological information in achieving wildlife management and policy-making that is effective and feasible. To be of optimal value, socio-economic and cultural information needs to be obtained in a consistent, systematic, and comprehensive manner on all relevant stakeholders, and be routinely incorporated into the policy making process. Recommendation: A formal procedure should be created, with adequate resources and trained personnel, to gather relevant economic, social, and cultural data and to incorporate this information into management and decision-making.

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management The specific tools of benefit-cost analysis and applied anthropology should be used in the analyses performed on those data. Conclusion 13: Wildlife is, by definition, a public resource. Under the constitution and statutes of the state of Alaska, the commissioner of fish and game is charged with ''conserving and managing Alaska's fish and wildlife resources in the interest of the economy and general well-being of the state." In a democracy, all major societal interest groups should have the opportunity for meaningful involvement in decisions that affect them. In addition to the social impact assessment process recommended above, that requires continuing and formally organized opportunities for agencies to interact with various stakeholders. The perceived lack of substantive participation and involvement in management decisions by various citizen groups has been a major contributor to the current wolf and bear controversy. An extensive public involvement process might be initially be time-consuming and expensive, but in the long-run it is likely to generate more efficient and more acceptable decisions. Recommendation: Procedures should be developed to allow the public to be substantively involved at all stages of the policy and regulatory decisions. Conclusion 14: Greater potential for agreement may exist among Alaska's diverse constituency than is generally assumed. The committee believes that a broad consensus exists among the Alaska public about the positive value of healthy populations of wolves, bears, and their prey. A broad consensus also exists about the appropriateness of predator control under conditions where prey are being kept well below the environmental carrying capacity and the scarcity of prey is adversely affecting subsistence users of ungulates. In the midst of substantial differences over the appropriateness of various means of predator control and how serious an "emergency" must be, there appears to be a basis for socially acceptable and sustainable policies. Such policies could be developed if wildlife agencies and the public were involved in a broad strategic planning process that endeavored to achieve consensus regarding fundamental management goals. In the absence of strategic planning, division rather than cooperation, and crisis rather than aggressive management, tend to prevail. In the absence of long-term agreed upon goals it is also hard to allocate limited resources efficiently and equitably. An overarching articulation of agency priorities and directions would involve a long-term vision that is clearly communicated to the public and that is responsive to public concerns. Crisis management invites interference with public decision making and causes long term damage in many ways, such as erosion of public confidence, restriction of management options through uninformed directives, and loss of willingness of groups to work toward common solutions.

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management Recommendation: ADFG and the Alaskan public should engage in the development of a long-term strategic plan for the state's wildlife resource that is periodically revised as necessary. Conclusion 15: Conflicts over management and control of predators are likely to continue indefinitely. Even given a broad consensus on goals and improved public involvement in decision-making, differences will inevitably arise among competing constituencies regarding the allocation and management of wildlife resources. Differences in values and criteria for control of wolves and management of bears and ungulates might lead, in particular circumstances, to major conflicts. Therefore, formal procedures for dealing with conflicts will always be needed. ADFG does not have a conflict resolution strategy, but it has experience with using a facilitated conflict resolution process in the development of wolf control plans, and this experience could be drawn upon to establish a standard agency process for resolving conflicts that involve resource allocation and decision-making. Recommendation: A formal conflict resolution process should be developed and adopted to help avoid the kind of intractable and wasteful dispute that has characterized the recent history of wolf and bear management in Alaska. Conclusion 16: Decentralization of decision-making authority is not a panacea for solving wildlife management problems, but it is likely to be helpful in many circumstances, particularly in rural communities. Many wildlife management decisions in Alaska are made at the level of GMUs or subdivisions of them. Such decisions must be based on detailed local information that supplements more general biological and social impact data. Therefore, effective and efficient decision-making needs to be customized by using local and traditional knowledge and targeted to the needs and interests of local constituencies. The great diversity of human populations in Alaska, their varied uses and perceptions of wildlife, and the tremendous variability of the Alaskan environment require that sort of management tailoring. Nevertheless, decision-making cannot be completely decentralized because wildlife populations are affected by regional and national factors as well as local ones. Wildlife might migrate across jurisdictional boundaries and users often travel long distances to interact with wildlife. Those long distance moves of users and used affect many biological, sociological, and economic values underlying management policies. Moreover, people living far from sites of potential management actions might feel that they have a stake in those actions even if they do not expect to visit the areas in question. Recommendation: Decision-making should be partly decentralized through formal consultation procedures whereby the views of local groups are solicited

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Wolves, Bears, and their Prey in Alaska: Biological and Social Challenges in Wildlife Management before decisions are made. In management situations involving rural and indigenous groups, more refined co-management decision-making structures should be developed where appropriate. Conclusion 17: Interagency cooperation could improve management, reduce public confusion, and eliminate unnecessary duplication. Wolves, bears, and related ungulate populations inevitably cross the jurisdictional boundaries of Native, state, and federal agencies. Because much of Alaska's land is under federal control, habitat and wildlife must be managed in cooperation with and with the approval of the federal government. Recommendation: ADFG should assume a leadership role in strengthening cooperative agreements between the various jurisdictions and agencies involved in wolf and bear management 6 in Alaska.

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