Environmental groups filed a petition in early September to ban hunting and trapping of wolves on state lands just outside Alaska’s Denali National Park. Wolves are protected inside the park but not on surrounding state land. In September, the groups asked the board for an emergency order to restore a no-trapping zone around the side of the park where the iconic Grant Creek wolf pack was known to den.
Last April, the wolf pack lost two breeding females, one due to natural causes and one killed by a trapper. As a result, the pack had no new pups over the summer, and it abandoned its historic den site in the park. The Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the National Park Conservation Association, the Alaska Center for the Environment, and Defenders of Wildlife filed the petition, but the Alaska Board of Game declined it because the situation was not considered an emergency. But according to wildlife experts, the pack of 15 wolves split up in the summer, and now just five travel together. According to the petition, fewer wolves were seen last summer, representing the loss of a valuable tourism opportunity.
Quoted in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Rick Steiner, an Alaska conservation biologist who led the drafting of the petition, said in a statement, “The loss of just one important breeding animal can lead to catastrophic impacts over the long term.”
But Douglas Vincent-Lang, head of the Alaska Fish and Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, said that the loss of a few wolves from one pack is of little concern biologically as long as the wolf population within Denali is healthy. Quoted in the Anchorage Daily News, Douglas-Lang said, “In that game management area the population of wolves, while lower than it has been in the past, remains viable and sustainable.”
A study conducted last spring showed that there were approximately 70 wolves in the six-million-acre park, with a density at the 25-year low, according to the park’s biologist.
Hunting and trapping season in the area starts on November 1st.