The Alaska Board of Game has refused to consider a request to establish an emergency no-hunting zone for wolves on the edge of Denali National Park, a buffer sought after the park’s best-known pack lost two of its prime breeding females and largely disappeared from public view.
The issue has consequences for tourism – viewing wolves in the wild is one of the premier attractions at the 6-million-acre park – but state officials say a ban on hunting and trapping on the edge of the park is not necessary to protect the substantial numbers of wolves that still roam the park.
“The department did not have any biological concerns regarding the wolves in that area,” Kristy Tibbles, executive director of the Board of Game, said Wednesday. She said six of the board’s seven members who were reachable elected not to convene an emergency hearing on re-establishing a buffer on the northeast edge of the park.
Two buffers totaling 122 square miles protected wolves just outside the park for about a decade, but the board canceled the zone in 2010 when wildlife advocates sought to expand it. Board members said then they would not revisit the issue before 2016.
A coalition of wildlife groups sought to re-establish a protection zone following the death earlier this year of the two leading females of the Grant Creek pack, one of the park’s signature attractions and visible for years near Denali’s main road.
One of the females was killed by a trapper not far from the park, in the former buffer zone; the other died of natural causes. The pack had no surviving pups this year and has dispersed, with few visitor sightings over the summer.
Conservationists who sought the emergency buffer zone said Denali’s wolves – about 70 in nine packs – are at their lowest population in years.