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.
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