Press Release Apr 28, 2016

New Study Suggests Decrease in Wolf Sightings at Denali and Yellowstone Linked to Hunting and Trapping Near Park Boundaries

The study raises immediate concerns from National Parks Conservation Association as data attributes decreased wolf sightings to states that allow wolf hunting to occur next to park boundaries.

Visitors in Denali National Park and Preserve and Yellowstone National Park are less likely to see wolves if hunting and trapping are allowed up to park boundaries, according to a new study published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The study raises immediate concerns from National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), as the data attributes the decreased wolf sightings to states that allow wolf hunting to occur next to park boundaries.

Denali and Yellowstone are two of America’s most beloved national parks, known for their breathtaking landscapes and iconic wildlife, including wolves. Over the past several years, wolf-sightings in Denali National Park and Preserve have become increasingly rare for visitors. This study underscores that the decline in wolf populations is multi-faceted and clearly affected by hunting and trapping on lands adjacent to the national park. For example, last spring after two Denali wolves from the East Fork pack were shot near a bait station just beyond the park’s boundary, this pack failed to have pups for the first time in the 28 years these wolves have been monitored.

“This study highlights the impact hunting and trapping outside national park boundaries can have on visitor experience, and emphasizes the responsibility the Alaska Board of Game has to consider the tourism industry and the state’s economy when developing these regulations,” said Jim Adams, NPCA’s Alaska regional director.

In Montana, hunting on Yellowstone’s northern boundary has been tightly controlled by the Montana Fish and Game Commission. Thankfully, wolf hunting in Wyoming has been on hold while a federal court reviews Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the state.

“NPCA is encouraged to see limitations on some park adjacent hunting zones specific to wolves in Montana,” said Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone program manager for NPCA. “We believe there is still room for Montana to implement more stringent protections on Yellowstone’s borders. As the state begins setting limitations on park adjacent wolf hunting near Yellowstone this spring, they should strongly take the findings of this study into account.”

National parks are economic generators for surrounding communities. In 2015, visitors to Yellowstone spent more than $493 million in communities surrounding the park. This study highlights the potential economic benefits of the stronger border protections for park adjacent communities and could offer a jumping off point for additional study of the impact on park adjacent hunting around the country.

In this centennial year of the National Park Service, protecting our national parks and wildlife is of paramount importance. NPCA will continue to urge state and federal agencies to work together to ensure that the next generation of park visitors has the opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitats – not just in the pages of history books.

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About National Parks Conservation Association

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.