Denali National Park wolves may get aid
Los Angeles Times
Thursday, September 6, 2012
The wolf pack that has enchanted thousands of visitors at Alaska's Denali National Park did not produce any pups this year and its members have dispersed widely throughout the park, says a petition seeking to ban hunting and trapping along the park's northeastern boundary, where a female wolf was fatally snared this year.
Visitors are likely to have substantially fewer chances to see wolves, which habitually denned close to the main road through the 6-million-acre park, says the petition, filed by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the National Parks Conservation Association and other groups.
"To me, and I know probably 400,000 other people who visit Denali, these wolves are way more valuable alive than dead. I don't know what they get for a wolf pelt, but it's not much," said Valerie Connor, conservation director for the Alaska Center for the Environment, which also joined in the petition.
The proposal to the Alaska Board of Game for a hunting and trapping buffer on state lands around Denali has been a point of friction for years between conservationists and the board, which became so weary of the issue that it put a moratorium on any further consideration for the next several years.
But the deaths of the pack's two main breeding females this spring - one from the trapper, the other from natural causes - raised concerns. Bridget Borg, a biologist at the park, said the 15-member pack split up and the chief monitored group is down to five or six wolves.
"The loss of just one important breeding animal can lead to catastrophic impacts over the long term," Alaska conservation biologist Rick Steiner, who led the drafting of the petition, said in a statement.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game rejected Steiner's initial request for an emergency ban on hunting and trapping on state lands east of the park, prompting conservationists this week to appeal to the Alaska Board of Game.
Douglas Vincent-Lang, head of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation, said the loss of a few wolves from one pack is of little concern biologically when the wolf population in that area of Denali is healthy.