Emergency order issued to protect Denali wolves

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An emergency order was issued to halt hunting and trapping of wolves on state land just east of Denali National Park and Preserve, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Thursday.

Without the order, protecting wolves in a new buffer zone approved by the Board of Game at its October meeting in Anchorage would have had to wait until next year to go into effect.

The areas affected by the emergency closure are Unit 20C and part of Unit 20A. Hunting began Aug. 10 and trapping was scheduled to begin Nov. 1. Both seasons would have run through next April.

The board on Oct. 11 voted 4-2 to create a 55-square-mile area to protect the Mount Margaret wolfpack that frequently ventures outside park boundaries. The wolfpack is one of two that provides park visitors with the best chance of viewing a wolf in the wild.

The board also extended a ban on wolf hunting and trapping in a 72-square-mile buffer established in November 2000 to protect the Toklat wolves, the best known of the Denali packs.

''The board intended to provide immediate protection to certain packs of commonly viewed wolves,'' Wayne Regelin, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said in a statement. ''This emergency order helps meet that goal by immediately preventing harvest in the area.''

Pete Buist, board member and former president of the Alaska Trappers Association, said Regelin was wrong to issue the emergency regulation.

''It is a misuse of the emergency regulation because there is no emergency. In fact, there is no biological need to begin with,'' he said.

The Trappers Association feels the millions of acres in the national park should be enough for non-consumptive uses, he said.

Layne Adams, a wildlife research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, testified at the October meeting that most of the hunting occurs near the park's northeast corner in the area of the two wolf packs. In the area of the new buffer, an average of 2.6 wolves were being taken.

Jesse Vanderzanden, executive director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, said the board should have met in Fairbanks instead of Anchorage because it was dealing with an Interior issue.

''We felt it was a political manipulation of Fish and Game,'' he said.

But the decision to protect Denali wolves goes far beyond Interior Alaska because the two wolf packs are the best chance thousands of park visitors each year have of seeing a wild wolf, said Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, which made the proposals to the board.

''How are people that are into wildlife viewing to get their space, too?'' he said. ''We should have been protecting them decades ago.''

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