Denali’s wolves suffered the loss of one of their greatest supporters last year when Dr. Gordon Haber died in a plane crash. He was their champion and now he’s gone.
I know he worked hard to keep the wolves safe but Denali’s wolves are dying at the hands of trappers who set their traps right outside the park. Since wolves don’t understand park boundaries they are often trapped and killed. Denali’s wolves are particularly vulnerable because they are habituated to people.
One horrific incident involved an alpha female who was stuck for almost two weeks in a leg hold trap and snare. Her frantic family stayed close to her but of course could not help her. Her teeth were broken from trying to eat rocks. Who are these heartless people who have no respect for animal life that would let a wolf to sit in a leghold for two weeks? It makes me sick to think of it. Apparently a small group of trappers are wrecking havoc on the wolves of Denali.
… a handful of trappers who set gauntlets of traps just along the border of the Park. Denali’s wolves are especially vulnerable to trapping and hunting due to their tolerance of human presence. As a result, the history of several wolf families seen along the Park road is a history of loss.
In the 1980s, Denali’s Savage pack was completely wiped out by a hunter. In 1995, the sole survivor of the Headquarters pack, a pregnant alpha female, was illegally snared less than 300 feet outside the Park boundary. In 1997-1998, the East Fork wolves declined from 12 to two; heavy trapping was the suspected cause. In 1998, the Sanctuary wolves declined from 15 to eight members; one year later three pups from this pack were snared less than a mile outside the Park.
In 2000, five pups from Denali’s Pinto pack were shot by a hunter. In 2002, the sole survivor of the Sanctuary pack was trapped and killed, her radio collar signal going off in a local trapper’s house.
The Margaret wolves moved into the territory but suffered the loss of their alpha male to trapping, and only two wolves remain today. A wolf with a snare caught around his neck moved into the Margaret territory. The wound was so severe his head was grossly swelled, prompting the Park Service to capture him and remove the snare. After his mate was killed, he was never seen again. That same spring, another wolf was seen with a leghold attached, but disappeared shortly thereafter.
There has been no more tragic loss, however, than that experienced by Denali’s East Fork wolves. Denning some 30 miles into the Park, many believe they are descendants of the wolves Adolph Murie studied back in the late thirties. The book, “The Wolves of Mt. McKinley” is based on Murie’s research and is still sold in bookstores today. In 2005, the small gray East Fork female I had seen on the road that day was trapped by a recreational trapper near the Stampede Trail.
The late Dr. Gordon Haber, an independent wolf biologist, and others observed her mate and pups around the trap area for many days, perhaps bewildered by her capture in both a leghold and snare. The trapper eventually shot her and carried her out on a sled pulled by a snowmachine. Biologists reported she had been alive for 10-14 days in the trap. The necropsy revealed she had broken teeth from eating rocks. Not too long after her death, the alpha black male was shot in the back by a hunter in the Cantwell area.
Could there be a more brutal death for a wolf?
It was hoped the Alaska Board of Game would address the plight of Denali’s wolves by extending their protections and increasing the buffer zones around the park. Instead they opened the north-eastern border of Denali to wolf trapping, even though Alaskans sent thousands of letters in support of wolves.
A letter to the editor in the Juneau Empire, from a concerned citizen, sums up the sad situation for Denali’s wolves and other wildlife.
State hypocritical in allowing Denali wildlife to be killed
Tuesday, March 09, 2010It was recently reported that the Alaska Board of Game made the decision to open the buffer zones to the northeast of Denali National Park to wolf trapping. This decision came about in spite of wide public support from Alaskans to maintain and even increase protection for Denali’s wolves.
Furthermore, the National Park Service also wished to maintain the current level of protection as the wolf population has declined to roughly 70 wolves within the park.
This decision, along with many other decisions by the Board of Game, contradicts what is stated in the Alaska Constitution that wildlife belongs to all Alaskans not just to hunters and trappers.
Apparently, the desires of three to four recreational trappers outweigh the desires of all other Alaskans, essentially making wildlife viewers, scientists, photographers, tourists, business and others into second-class citizens without any voices of representation on the current Board of Game.
Quoting from the article – “When we created buffer zones, we had been essentially implementing federal management for federal interests on state land,” said board member Teresa Albaugh, who voted to open the land for trapping. “The business of those lands is the business of the federal government.”
Exactly. As such, the National Park Service should take a far more aggressive stance toward the state when state actions threaten either or both of the two mandates of the National Park Service – protecting the resource and providing access and experience for park visitors.
Since NPS has federal jurisdiction over its lands, it should re-evaluate its current hunting and trapping bag limits within Denali’s Preserve and New Park Additions (and in other parks) and lower them assuming this does not conflict with ANILCA. Additionally, other subjects such as snow machining and other areas of cooperation with the state should be re-evaluated as well and perhaps overturned.
No predator control of either bears or wolves or the baiting of either for hunting or trapping purposes should be allowed on federal lands whether under NPS or other federal agency jurisdiction.
Additionally, perhaps now is the time for the businesses in the Alaska tourism industry – such as Princess, Aramark, Holland America and many other local businesses in the Glitter Gulch area outside Denali – to re-evaluate and consider cancelling their advertising and promotion of these same area trappers’s tourism-related businesses.
The financial targeting of tourists in the summer and then the targeting and killing of Denali’s wildlife as it travels outside the park in the winter is blatantly hypocritical and is ethically and biologically destructive to Denali.
When will the cruelty toward wolves end? What is wrong with our society that we allow such horrors?
Denali’s wolves: A history of lossBy Karen Deatherage | Juneau Empire
Please write to the Alaska Board of Game to express your outrage on their new policy of opening a Denali National Park buffer zone to wolf trapping:
ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME
Boards Support Section
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, AK 99811-5526
(907) 465-6094 FAX
Write to the Governor of Alaska Sean Parnell and ask him to reverse this outrageous decision by the Alaska Board of Game
Contact the Governor…..CLICK HERE
Animal rights’ group urges Alaska tourism boycottMon Mar 8, 5:39 pm ET
JUNEAU, Alaska – An animal rights’ group is calling for a tourism boycott of Alaska over a recent decision to remove buffer zones for wolf trapping near Denali National Park.
Friends of Animals’ President Priscilla Feral says last week’s decision by a divided Alaska Board of Game lacked any sense of decency.
She says treating wolves as vermin is an extreme attitude and that her group is taking a drastic step in response. She says Gov. Sean Parnell needs to intervene.
A Parnell spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Feral says Friends of Animals last used a tourism boycott to protest Alaska’s wolf program in the early 1990s.
Video: Courtesy YouTube
Posted in: Alaska’s wolves, Howling for Justice, gray wolf/canis lupus
Tags: cruelty of trapping, trapping wolves, Denali’s wolves, Alaska Board Of Game