Denali puts a sock in group's proposal for howling with park wolves

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Officials at Denali National Park and Preserve have muzzled a wildlife group's plan to conduct a ''howling'' with wolves at the Massachusetts-sized park.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance wanted park officials to try out a howling tour patterned after those done in least two other places -- the Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, and at the Superior National Forest next to the International Wolf Center in Northern Minnesota.

Alliance officials had proposed that a biologist or guide would start howling during nighttime tours in the park and with any luck, the wolves would howl back.

''This won't do anything negative for the wolves, but for people it will be a thrill of a lifetime,'' said the Alliance's Paul Joslin, who told the Anchorage Daily News he helped run the first howling tour at Algonquin in the early 1960s.

But Gordon Olson, Denali's chief of research and resource protection, said such tours don't fit with the Park Service's philosophy of leaving the animals alone.

''We think visitors should get out into the park,'' Olson said. ''It shouldn't be a virtual or contrived or controlled experience. Interactions in the park should be spontaneous. That's what sets us aside from a zoo or a museum or a theater.''

Blanca Stransky, chief of interpretation for Denali, said the park may consider a late-night bus tour where tourists would listen to nighttime sounds and a guide would interpret what they're hearing. But howling is not an option, she said.

Joslin estimates that as many as 1,500 people go to Algonquin Park on summer nights just to listen to the wolves. He believes a similar program at Denali would be just as popular and that howling tours would help the wolves.

People who see or hear the animals in Denali might become advocates for a no-hunting and no-trapping buffer next to the park. The alliance wants such a buffer; the state Board of Game last month deferred the idea to a committee that has yet to be named.

Joslin also has proposed remote-control viewing cameras be placed outside wolf dens so people can watch the animals from a distance.

The technology is the brainchild of Homer cinematographer Daniel Zatz, who has set up cameras at the state's McNeil River brown bear sanctuary and at Gull Island in Kachemak Bay -- where real-time images are beamed to Homer's Pratt Museum.

Zatz said he's sure he can install cameras without disrupting wolves but offered no comment on the proposal.

''We're putting cameras all over North America,'' he said. ''I know we can do this, but we need to have a meeting with park officials, to listen to their concerns.''

Olson said the park is willing to see a demonstration, although he was concerned about how cameras might affect the wolves. Adult wolves sometimes abandon dens that have been disturbed, he said.

The cameras might be set up away from the den sites, but if that happens, Olson wants to make sure the images don't reveal den locations. Then there's the question of where to set up the viewing monitors.

But, he said, ''we're interested in going out into a parking lot and having a demonstration of the technology. There may be an application for it.''

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