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Conservation groups want hunting, trapping seasons suspended for rare southeast Alaska wolves

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Six conservation organizations want to stop hunting and trapping of a rare southeast Alaska wolf while the federal government decides whether the animals merit endangered species status.

The groups asked Fish and Game Department Commissioner Sam Cotton on Thursday to preemptively close hunting and trapping seasons for Alexander Archipelago wolves, a southeast Alaska species that den in the root systems of large trees.

They also asked the Federal Subsistence Board to close subsistence hunting and trapping, and the U.S. Forest Service to suspend logging and road-building for the Big Thorne timber sale on Prince of Wales Island, which will include old-growth forest.

Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the wolves as endangered in August 2011. The estimated population in the mid-1990s was 250 to 350 animals. The estimated wolf population last fall was 89, the groups said, with no more than 159 and perhaps as few as 50 animals, according to the groups.

That estimate was made before 29 wolves were legally harvested by hunters and trappers during the 2014-2015 hunting and trapping seasons.

"Alexander Archipelago wolves are one-of-a-kind, and once they're gone, they're not coming back," said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. "We have to protect the few remaining wolves on Prince of Wales Island right now, or they'll be gone."

Alexander Archipelago wolves feed on Sitka black-tailed deer. The listing petition said large-scale logging fragments forests and reduces carrying capacity for deer.

After a lawsuit last year claiming inaction by federal regulators, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed in September to decide by late 2015 whether the wolves warrant endangered species protection.

Bruce Dale, state director of wildlife conservation, was not immediately available for comment.

The groups seeking the hunting and trapping suspensions include Cascadia Wildlands, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, The Boat Co., and Alaska Wildlife Alliance.

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