ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Board of Game added 55 square miles worth of protection for wolves around Denali National Park and Preserve on Friday. The vote was unanimous.
The board also extended a ban on wolf hunting and trapping in a 72-square-mile buffer established in November 2000. That protection was scheduled to end March 31.
The Alaska Wildlife Alliance asked the board to essentially triple the size of the buffer to protect wolves in the Mount Margaret pack, but the board wasn't willing to go that far.
The board trimmed that proposal to the 55 square miles of new protection.
The board's action came Friday after two days of testimony and board debate.
Members of the board felt the buffer was enough to provide protection for the Mount Margaret pack, with minimal disruption to other uses, according to the Department of Fish and Game.
Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson supported more protection for wolves. He said 15,000 to 20,000 of the 200,000 visitors who tour the park in buses each year see wolves.
But the Middle Nenana River Fish and Game Advisory Committee in nearby Healy opposed the idea, noting that the park's protections had already been expanded from 2 million to 6 million acres.
The two wolf packs the board is trying to protect consist of 14 animals -- four in the Toklat pack and 10 in the Mount Margaret group.
Altogether, biologists have counted 93 wolves in the park.
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