ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faced the Alaska Board of Game today to answer questions about the service's decision to not allow the State of Alaska to shoot wolves on Unimak Island. Geoff Haskett said it was a tough decision to make, but believes it is the right one.
"It's one of those very complicated issues, we've had litigation on it, it's been a tough year," said Haskett when he spoke with Channel 2. "We're going to get through this one, the decision was not an easy one to make, we made the right decision and it strained our relationship with the state."
Haskett said he didn't appear before the Board of Game to defend the agency's decision, just to answer questions. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game wants to shoot wolves preying on caribou calves on the island. But the calving grounds lie on a National Wildlife Refuge, and after an Environmental Impact Study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that no action was the best plan.
"It does highlight the fact that the two agencies have differing mandates and differing opinions on how those mandates should be carried out," said Corey Rossi, Wildlife Conservation Director for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
There has not been any subsistence hunting on Unimak Island for several years because of low caribou numbers. Today residents of False Pass, the only village on Unimak Island, said they are afraid for their safety because wolves are coming to town looking for food.
"They are coming very aggressively into the village, and I'm afraid that if something is not done somebody in the village is going to be next," said Gilda Shellikoff, a lifelong resident of False Pass.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it's keeping an eye on the situation and if it becomes a public safety issue, wolves will need to be killed to protect people.
Both the agencies say they hope to work together in the future to come to a solution.