The trapping death of two wolves that belonged to one of Denali National Park's largest and most-seen wolf packs, in an area directly adjacent to one of the park's boundaries, has a conservation biologist calling for action.
Rick Steiner says he written Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell to request an emergency closure to wolf kills in an area just outside the northeast boundary of Denali National Park.
Two wolves from the Grant Creek pack, including one of its breeding females, were fatally snared right outside the park boundary by a trapper who shot an aging horse to use as wolf bait, according to Alaska State Troopers. The area used to be a buffer zone closed to wolf hunting, until the Board of Game eliminated the buffer in 2010.
"That was a choice by the State of Alaska and the Board of Game and it's their jurisdiction and we will live with that choice -- but there are consequences to their actions," said John Quinley with the National Park Service.
Steiner says another female breeding wolf recently died of natural causes within the park, but the loss of two female wolves from the same pack could impact the park's wolf population for years.
"If you start removing important adults from a family group, a wolf pack, particularly reproductive females, you could have the entire pack disinigrate," said Steiner.
He says that's why he wants a halt to trapping within the former buffer zone, through this next hunting season. But the Department of Fish and Game says an emergency order would be difficult.
"For us now to go back and reverse the Board and say this is a conservation issue, that would be difficult for us to get there. They knew what the implications of taking one to five wolves would be in those game management units," said Doug Vincent-Lang, acting director of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation.
Quinley says wolf numbers fluctuate and it's hard to predict how the loss of one or two wolves might affect the population in the future. He says there are currently around 70 wolves within the park -- what the park service calls a healthy population, although the wolves are constantly on the move.
Steiner says it's hard to understand why people would lure wolves out of the park to kill them.
"Trapping around a park boundary is about like trapping around a zoo without a fence. It just makes no sense to many people," said Steiner.
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