Denali Wolf Hunt Nears Opening Despite Low Population Numbers


Wolf hunting season is scheduled to open next month in and around Denali National Park, despite record low wolf numbers. This spring, Park biologists counted fewer than 50 Denali wolves, heightening a long running battle over the popularly viewed animals.

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Spotting a wild wolf in Denali National Park is a coveted sight many visitors haven’t enjoyed in recent years as the park’s wolf population has dwindled. Some of that’s attributed to hunting and trapping take just outside the park’s north east boundary where the animals commonly range. Anchorage biologist Rick Steiner and other conservationists contends harvest restrictions are the only tool wildlife managers have to boost Park wolf numbers.

Steiner and others have asked the Park Service and the state to cancel wolf hunting seasons set to begin August 10th. Steiner says seven or fewer Denali wolves are taken annually, mostly outside the park.

State Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton issued an emergency closure of spring wolf hunting in May on state lands northeast of the park. Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale says ties that specifically to overlapping hunting seasons.

Dale says there was concern about bear hunters also taking wolves, upping the normally low Denali area harvest. Dale attributes the Denali wolf decline primarily to natural causes.

The Board of Game has turned down repeated emergency petitions requesting re-instatement of a wolf protection zone along the Park’s northeastern edge, maintaining there’s no biological emergency. Meanwhile, Steiner and other conservationists also continue to eye a more permanent solution.

Steiner says Denali wolf advocates met with Governor Bill Walker last month, and the solution seemed to resonate, adding that the Park Service is also on board.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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