After three deaths of Denali’s East Fork Pack wolves this spring, all caused by human activities on state lands next to Denali, DCC members and others called for an Emergency Closure of these lands to wolf hunting for the rest of the season, May 31st in Game Management Unit 20C. On May 14th, the Director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation, Bruce Dale, signed an order to establish the closure.
While we are certain that the abundant public request for this closure influenced the decision, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game assured us that our arguments were not convincing and that the decision was made for a very specific and narrow reason – the unforeseen consequence of recently adopted regulations placing more hunters in the field during spring brown bear baiting activities.
At this point, wolf hunting will open on August 10, 2015 on state lands surrounding the national park and will continue until May 30th, 2016, barring any new closures or orders. Meanwhile, advocates for creating a no wolf-take area surrounding the northeast corner of the park are continuing the pressure, including a group that recently met with Governor Bill Walker and Commissioner Sam Cotten in support of a buffer easement, a land management designation that would bypass the Board of Game decision-making process. The DCC Board has preferred to use the Board of Game process, and we have collaborated with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance to draft a Proposal for the Board of Game’s 2016 meeting. Look for copies of our Proposal in another post. We are acutely aware that the Board of Game has not been receptive to proposals advocating non-consumptive use allocations recently. However, we remain hopeful that with wolf numbers low, and given the importance of the Denali region for wolf viewing and for NPS’s wolf-study program, the evidence for a buffer is mounting.