Fewer Wolves Counted in Denali National Park
The state manages wildlife populations on a sustainable basis, and it’s the Board of Game’s job to allocate those populations among users, he said. It would take a “compelling conservation concern” to warrant a closure, Rabe said.
Rabe noted that the park’s wolf population declined every year since 2007 and the buffer zone was in place much of that time. He said only two wolves were taken by trappers or hunters last year after the buffer zone was removed, which represents only a small percentage of this year’s decline.
While Steiner admits there are likely multiple reasons for the decline in the park’s wolf population, he said there’s no denying trapping and hunting on state land has contributed to that decline. He pointed to the trapping of the last breeding female in the most-viewed pack in the park, the Grant Creek Pack, which was trapped in what used to be the buffer zone in May. After the female was trapped and killed, the rest of the pack abandoned their den and split up. The pack didn’t produce any pups this year, he said.
“There’s six or seven animals gone right there,” he said. “Now there are only five of what used to be a 15-member pack, probably due to the trapping of that one female.”
For its part, the National Park Service says it’s not concerned about the overall number of wolves in the park as much as it is about the individual packs that are most often seen by park visitors, such as the Grant Creek Pack, because the park’s wolf population varies from year to year, depending on a variety of factors, spokeswoman Kris Fister said.
“The low numbers could be the result of a lot of different factors,” she said.
Wolf viewing in the park was down considerably this summer, in large part because of the demise of the Grant Creek Pack, which had denned in close proximity to Denali Park Road the previous three summers and were seen by thousands of tourists, she said.
That said, Fister said the Park Service, which has advocated for a buffer zone in the past to protect wolves that are seen by visitors and stray out of the northeast corner of the park, “would continue to work with the state to come up with a resolution that will benefit both parties.”