Petition Seeks to Halt the Killing of Denali National Park Wolves
June 08, 2015
The NPS issued its annual wolf monitoring report for Denali and officials appeared to suggest that the reason for the “lowest (wolf) density estimate since monitoring began in 1986” may be due solely to “natural causes” such as low snowfall. Experts disputed both the facts and logic of that suggestion and the May 2015 report issued by NPS admitts that “mortality of wolves from both human and natural causes” was a factor in Denali wolf population decline.
This young male wolf from the East Fork pack in Denali National Park was found dead in March 2015 inside the park, entangled in a snare which had been set on state land outside of the park. The wolf broke the snare, and bled to death inside the park.
“The park’s primary purpose is to ‘protect intact the globally significant Denali ecosystems,’ but park managers have no credible plan for fulfilling this central mission,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that with a new Governor perhaps Alaska and NPS can once again start cooperatively managing Denali’s wolf population. “At the present rate, dysfunctional wildlife politics will end up killing the wolf laying huge golden eggs for Alaska’s tourist economy.”
According to the group Protecting Employees Who Protect Our Environment (PEER), the current unprecedented decline in Denali wolves began in winter 2007-08, when about 10% of the entire park population was killed by trappers and hunters northeast of the park (despite a buffer in place at the time). The decline continued after the buffer was removed in 2010, with the park’s wolf population dropping from 143 in fall 2007 to only 48 in spring 2015. Meanwhile, viewing success has declined from 45% in 2010 to only 6% last summer. Denali draws more than 500,000 people from all over the world each year to see North America’s highest peak, its wilderness, and its wildlife – especially wolves.
According to PEER, the scientific research demonstrates that if trapping or hunting kills a significant breeding individual, it can disrupt the entire wolf family group. This “breeder loss effect” is a critical dynamic driving population decline in the park. Significantly, the 2015 Denali wolf monitoring report concluded: “We found that breeder loss preceded or coincided with most documented cases of wolf pack dissolution (when a pack disbanded or was no longer found).” Two more park wolves were killed by a hunter along the boundary of the park on Saturday, May 2, when they were attracted to a bear baiting station just outside the park. One was a pregnant female whose pups would have been born in May.
The citizens’ petition on Denali wolves was posted on April 29 by Marybeth Holleman, an Anchorage-based author. The petition asks U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to immediately close all wolf killing throughout Denali and to acquire a permanent wolf buffer conservation easement from the State of Alaska along the northeastern boundary of Denali.
The NPS is presently considering an emergency request to close all park lands to wolf killing, and the State of Alaska is considering a similar request for an emergency order establishing a wolf buffer on its lands along the boundary of the national park.
Denali's wolves got a brief reprieve when Alaska closed hunting and trapping along the park boundaries two weeks early. But the hunting and trapping resumes on August 10th, when the pups are less than 3 months old. Petitioners are calling on U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to immediately halt all wolf killing inside Denali park, and secure a permanent no-kill buffer along the park boundary from the State of Alaska.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game states on their website that wolves in Alaska are managed as both a big game animal and a furbearer; they are hunted and also trapped. Each year, hunters and trappers harvest about 1,300 wolves statewide, with up to an additional 200 animals or so taken annually using intensive management (predator control) programs.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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