Hunting and trapping just beyond the park’s border have severely reduced or eliminated entire wolf packs and dramatically reduced visitors’ wolf viewing. Simple, common-sense regulations can help reverse this harmful trend.
Denali National Park is one of the best places in the world to see wolves in the wild. Regrettably, hunting and trapping on adjacent state land have taken a toll on the population of park wolves, which has severely impacted the number of visitors who see wolves.
In February 2017, the Alaska Board of Game, which manages wildlife in the state, will consider creating a wolf protection zone barring hunting and trapping on state land just outside Denali — a measure NPCA strongly supports.
A small sliver of state land to the northeast of the park, often called the “Wolf Townships,” contains habitat critical for park wildlife. Caribou, a prime food source for wolves, move to this parcel in the winter because it is lower in elevation and protected from the elements; as the caribou move, the wolves follow them.
From 2000-2010, the Alaska Board of Game eliminated hunting and trapping of wolves on a small portion of the Wolf Townships to protect Denali’s packs. While the restrictions were not perfect, they helped tremendously. Unfortunately, the agency reversed this policy in 2010 and began allowing wolf hunting and trapping in the area again.
Since the National Park Service began monitoring wolves in the 1980s, records show that hunting and trapping in the Wolf Townships have severely reduced or completely eliminated numerous Denali wolf packs. Recently, the Grant Creek and East Fork family groups dispersed after pack leaders were killed. The decline of these two groups has led to a steep reduction in wolves and opportunities for viewing them. In 2010, visitors had a 45 percent chance of seeing a wolf along the Denali Park Road, whereas in 2015, the odds had plummeted to just 5 percent.
One of the most studied and viewed packs in the world — the East Fork family group — declined from 14 members in 2015 to just one pregnant female in spring 2016. At this time, researchers do not know whether she or her pups have survived. This pack has enormous historical value and represents some of the first wolves ever studied in the wild, beginning in the 1930s by renowned wildlife biologist Adolph Murie and continuing nearly uninterrupted to the present day. If the East Fork pack disappears, new wolves will likely move into their territory. However, it would be a terrible loss to science, not to mention the region’s tourism economy.
Measures that protect Denali’s wolves also protect the interest of Alaskans, who value the unique landscape and often make their livelihoods from it. In 2015, 560,000 Denali visitors contributed over $500 million dollars to local gateway economies.
NPCA strongly urges the Alaska Board of Game to enact this common-sense safety zone to help protect Denali’s wolves.
More than 16,000 Letters Sent to Alaska Board of Game
Thousands of national park advocates asked the Alaska Board of Game to reinstate the wolf safe zone around Denali National Park and Preserve.
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