A Buffer Zone Could Go A Long Way For Wolves in Denali

This spring, a female wolf was lured out of Denali National Park with a horse carcass and killed in a snare. She was the only breeding female in her pack, which left the pack without pups this summer and subsequently caused the 15-member pack to split up and abandon their den.

This senseless and fatal snaring has prompted conservationists to petition the Alaska Board of Game for a hunting and trapping buffer around the park for this hunting season, which is scheduled to begin November 1.

The National Park Service asked to expand the buffer in 2010, but the board rejected it, voted to get rid of it all together and was apparently so annoyed over having to even consider protecting wolves they declared an 8-10 year moratorium on even talking about it.

A proposal submitted to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by conservation biologist Rick Steiner asking that they overturn their moratorium on the decision to remove the buffer and requesting an emergency end to wolf kills in the area outside the park was denied.

Now the petitioners, including  the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the Alaska Center for the Environment, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association and six individuals, are claiming that the deaths of two females from the Grant Creek Pack – one who was fatally snared and another who appeared to have died from natural causes – have led to changed circumstances and that the situation calls for an emergency order.

“The loss of just one important breeding animal can lead to catastrophic impacts over the long term,” Steiner, who led the drafting of the petition, said in a statement.

The wolf population in the park is already at a 20-year low, with just 70 wolves in nine packs, even with healthy prey populations.

“The Grant Creek pack was the most visible pack in the park. People saw them hunting along the road. A bus driver told me about having the pups sitting in the road howling right in front of the bus ― incredible sights,” Marybeth Holleman, who is writing a book on Denali’s wolves, told the LA Times. “This summer, we saw one lone wolf near the visitors center. It was a solo wolf, out hunting by itself.”

The most ridiculous part about this is how many advantages there are to reinstating a buffer zone, from stopping the senseless killing of wolves and keeping packs intact to the economic benefits of attracting tourism into the state, which is estimated to have $1.5 billion impact. And who will be negatively affected by the buffer zone? Two guys. That’s right. Only two trappers will be affected and they don’t even have to stop, they just need to move their traps outside of the proposed buffer zone.

“The State has an opportunity here to prioritize the interests of the 400,000 visitors to Denali park over those of the two individuals who trap along its boundary, and the rational choice here is clear,” John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, told the Anchorage Daily News.


Related Stories:

Wolves Killed in Snares Outside of Alaska National Park

Using Dogs to Hunt Wolves: Does Anyone See the Irony?

Wyoming Wolves Attack Far Fewer Cattle than Ranchers Claim


Photo credit: Thinkstock

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Beth M.
Beth M.3 years ago

Why isn't Alaska trying to protect these wolves? It is a tourist attraction (sadly, only money talks). But if that is what it takes to protect them, Alaska wake up!

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch3 years ago

How is this legal, or ethical?

Wendy Schroeder
Wendy Schroeder3 years ago

Sigh...why are people so afraid of wolves? Get rid of the traps and leave them alone.

Carrie Anne Brown

signed and voted, thanks for sharing :)

Amy Stotler
Amy Stotler3 years ago

Petition signed and shared. Thank you for this information.

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo3 years ago

Stopthe senseless killing evertwhere, at once and forever! Petition signed, thank you.

Georgia Armstrong
Georgia a.3 years ago

What continues to amaze me is those supposedly in charge of making the decisions for the populace make all sorts of promises, then when they get in office....forget these promises and who put them in office. And another sad thing is we the populace keep voting these idiots back into office. So the question is what's wrong with us? Why are we putting people into office who either have no idea how to make the correct decisions, are being paid under the table to make the other decisions or are so stupid they couldn't make the correct decision if it was written down for them. But when we get right down to it, the animals are the ones doing the suffering for our mistakes so we need to straighten up and get it right.

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

buffer zones can help in all kinds of places for all kinds of issues (e.g., noise)

Gayle J.
Gayle J.3 years ago

So the wolves will be wiped out to keep two trappers happy? Absolutely disgusting.

Sharon P.
Sharon P.3 years ago

signed in the hopes that our pinnacle predators are given the place of respect in our ecosystem - and the space to thrive - that they deserve