Board of Game to take up wolf control, protection proposals

Posted: Friday, May 18, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The state Board of Game will hold a special, two-day meeting in Fairbanks to discuss wolf control and wolf protection issues.

The seven-member board will meet Sunday and Monday to decide whether to expand a no-trapping, no-hunting buffer zone to protect wolves which roam outside the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve.

The game board, which is responsible for setting hunting bag limits and seasons for Alaska's wildlife resources, will also decide whether to take the first steps in implementing a predator control plan to boost moose populations near McGrath, as recommended by a panel appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles.

''It's going to be an interesting, intense two days,'' said Matt Robus, deputy director for Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife and Conservation.

Management of the state's wolves has been the most controversial issue facing the game board since Knowles called for a halt to the state's wolf control plan in 1994. The plan came to an abrupt end after a state biologist's botched attempt to kill a snared wolf was captured on videotape and shown on news broadcasts around the country.

Since then, the state has proceded cautiously and conservatively with its management of wolves and the issue has become a tug of war between Knowles, the game board and Alaska residents.

Knowles has refused to approve the killing of wolves by state biologists and has repeatedly called for more studies on the matter. Last year, Knowles urged the game board to create a buffer zone around Denali Park to protect two packs of wolves which sometimes stray outside the park boundaries onto state land and are trapped or shot.

The game board has been reluctant to go along with Knowles. After refusing to create a buffer zone around Denali Park last March, the board compromised by establishing a small sliver of a buffer zone in November that critics said offered little protection for the park wolves in question and was a token measure.

Alaska residents have twice voted down land-and-shoot hunting of wolves with an airplane while at the same time refusing to place a ban on the use of snares to catch wolves.

Hunters and Bush residents say an increase in wolves has resulted in catastrophic declines in moose and caribou populations in rural areas such as McGrath, where local residents live a subsistence lifestyle and rely on moose meat.

Wildlife advocates, meanwhile, say the number of wolves isn't as big a problem as the unrealistic expectations hunters place on the land to produce game. They also contend the game board should place more value on viewing wildlife, such as wolves, rather than simply treating them as moose- and caribou-killing machines that deprive hunters of meat.

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