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Board of Game Unanimously Denies Third Wolf Petition

National Park Service

Fairbanks, AK - The Alaska Board of Game unanimously denied a petition Friday that would have closed state land to the taking of wolves along the eastern boundary of Denali National Park.  A handful of wildlife advocacy groups petitioned the Board after the Grant Creek Wolf pack lost two breeding females this spring.  Biologists think the pack dispersed this summer.  

It was the third petition filed in two months by a group of wildlife advocates concerned about a potential decline in the Denali region wolf population.  Petition author and conservation biologist Rick Steiner says he’s very disappointed with the Board’s latest denial.  “This is not an animal rights issue," he says.  "This is not a predator control issue.  This is about two things and two things only.  One protecting the functional integrity of Denali National Park wildlife assemblages and number two maximizing the economic value of Alaska’s wildlife through wildlife tourism and such," says Steiner.

Data from the National Park Service show wolf sightings are becoming increasingly rare in Denali National Park and Preserve.  Petitioners also included information about the economic value of wolves to the region.  But Acting Board of Game Chairman Ted Spraker says he still doesn’t think the data supports an emergency action. “That is a very high hurdle for the board, and unless it’s a real dire emergency, the board just has not recognized any of these petitions in the past," says Spraker.

The Board voted zero-to-six to deny the first petition.  One member was out of state at the time.  A second petition was also denied unanimously.  Groups have sparred over wolves in the area for nearly a decade.  Spraker says he recommends petitioners and the Park Service discuss the issue with two known trappers in the area. "To me," says Spraker, "there’s a lot of personal animosity between these guys and it’s almost like no one wants to sit down and really hammer out what’s going on and how it looks bad for trappers across the state and really talk with these guys and negotiate some sort of a deal or compromise."  But when asked, Spraker says he doesn't think the Board of Game has any reason to foster that kind of conversation. "No, that’s not our business, you know, we don’t need to be the third party in this discussion," he says.

Rick Steiner says he’s already contacted at least one trapper without success. He says petitioners still have other options. “One, go to court in the state to try to overturn this backwards Board of Game decision," says Steiner. "Secondly, go to the legislature and trey to get a bill passed broadly looking at these issues of buffers and specifically imposing the Denali buffer again.  And then third try to getting the federal Government, the Department of Interior, to stand up finally and become a stronger advocate for integrity of wildlife management on federal lands in Alaska.”

The Board of Game did away with the buffer zone in 2010 and placed a moratorium on the issue until 2016.  The Park Service is counting wolves in Denali National Park this month. The wolf trapping season opens on November first.