The wolf pack came into clear view as I focused my binoculars. Several times over the previous years I'd seen this same pack, the Grant Creek Pack. They have been by far the most viewed wolves in Denali Park for almost a decade now.
This summer it's likely no pups will be born to this most viewed pack and pups are what keep them tied to this area of open country and viewable to anyone with binoculars and a little luck. Thousands of visitors from all over the world will now have little chance of seeing the animal many most want to see.
Why is this long sought thrill denied to so many who have come so far? Because the Alaska Board of Game believes the recreational trapping interests of three or four people outweigh the viewing interests of tens of thousands of park visitors who have spent considerable money for the chance to see a wild wolf.
The pack's breeding female was trapped recently by local trapper Coke Wallace. He killed a horse to bait wolves out of the park into what had been a protected buffer zone. Because the Grant Creek pack had for generations been conditioned to lose their fear of human scent, it was a minimal challenge to set up those deadly snares around the dead horse. Park authorities had asked to keep and even expand this buffer zone and over 500 buffer zone supporting letters were given the BOG with a large percentage from local businesses. Tourism and locals be damned, the zero diversity BOG would once again bow to the consumption oriented special interests and eliminate the buffer zone protection.
A recent article went into detail about how the loss of one wolf was meaningless from a biological perspective so why get excited about the loss of this one wolf. He is biologically correct and also totally misses the point. He, like the Board of Game, apparently consider wildlife viewing to be so useless as to not be worthy of consideration.
The Alaska State Constitution mandates that the BOG be appointed by the governor to represent the variety of interests Alaskans have in the management of our state's wildlife. Governor Parnell has consistently failed to fulfill this obligation and instead appoints only those recommended by the commercial special interest organizations that currently control Alaska's wildlife management. Recently Governor Parnell has yet again appointed a zero diversity BOG member. In just the recent past, two of Parnell's BOG appointments have been rejected by the legislature which must confirm his appointments. One was apparently because he was an over the top radical and the other allegedly had legal and honesty issues.
It's time for Alaskans to elect a governor who respects the state constitution and appoints BOG members who recognize the diverse regulatory requirements needed for responsible wildlife management. Alaskans need BOG members willing to look past the special interests of trophy hunting and trapping to the needs of our tourism industry and the integrity of our ecosystems. Maybe even notice that wolves are worth more than the value of a pelt and might even have value to people who don't want to kill them.
John Toppenberg has been director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance for about seven years. He lives in Sterling.