Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Wildlife officials fear storied Alaskan wolf pack has been exterminated by hunters

National Park Service photo by Tim Rains:
A wolf in Denali National Park
Wildlife officials fear that the storied East Fork wolf pack in Alaska’s Denali National Park has been wiped out by excessive hunting, Elise Schmelzer reports for The Washington Post. "The last radio-collared male was found shot dead near a hunting camp in May. Now, park officials can’t find the last three pack members: a mother wolf without a collar and her two pups. It’s impossible to know for sure what happened to them, officials said, but it’s unlikely that the mother and her pups will survive without the support and protection of a pack." They were last seen June 28.

The wolf pack, which has been documented by scientists since 1939, "is the most recent fatality of a controversial Alaska policy that allows hunters to kill wolves and other large predators in the state’s national wildlife refuges, wildlife advocates say," Schmelzer writes. "Park officials estimated 49 wolves lived in Denali National Park this spring, only three more than the park’s all-time low of 46 in 1986 and a significant decline from the early 2000s when it was common to count more than 100. In 2015, only 5 percent of Denali visitors reported seeing a wolf—down from 45 percent in 2010."

"Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the hunting of predators in Alaska’s 16 wildlife refuges unless needed 'in response to a conservation concern,'" Schmelzer writes. The state called the ban a "federal overreach into one of the state’s most lucrative industries and shrinks the moose and caribou populations that Native American groups rely on for food, The Guardian reports." A study commissioned by the Alaska Professional Hunters Association says "guided hunting generated a total of $78 million in economic activity and more than 2,210 jobs in 2012." (Read more)

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