Gentlemen, hope you have a prosperous New Year,
I am a naturalist and field educator for Denali Education Center working in the Park for the last 5 years interpreting fauna, flora and ecosystems. I am very concerned about the wolf situation in the Park and seemingly no advocacy from the Park. Maybe the Park is doing something but have not heard or seen anything.
It is true most wolf sightings are seen along the Park road, but also within the Park where I hiked frequently. Yes it is true that "sightings are dependent on the behavior of the wolves frequenting the park road", but that has gone down in the recent present as well as in the back country. Frankly, the numbers are down and the opportunities are lower and lower each year. The write up in the NPS web site does not address why or how to remedy this situation.
The section "Protecting wolf viewing opportunities" states that "Denali is recognized as one of the best places in the world for people to see wolves in the wild. Wolf viewing offers park visitors and the Alaskan tourism industry substantial benefits." I believe NPS needs to change this statement because it is not true. The best place to see wolves is in Yellowstone after the controversial and brave introduction of Canadian wolves in the Park. The population is thriving and the Park rangers embrace the increase of wolves but mostly tracking individual wolves demonstrating the importance of some wolves to the family unit. I hope we never have to introduce wolves in Denali National Park.
The benefits to the Park are in visitor numbers and the dollars spent in and around the Park. Visitors are not getting their money's worth and the Park should not state "this is one of the best places in the world to see wolves." It is not.
This question in the subject line "Are Wolf Viewing Opportunities in Denali at Risk?" was the heading in the mammal section of the Denali National Park web site. It is a good question and the narrative that followed is informative reading but the question was not answered. I will answer it here. Yes, wolf viewing opportunities in Denali are at great risk. When viewing opportunities reach a high of 47% in 2007 at 143 wolves to a low of 4% in 2015 at 48 wolves for two consecutive years, I would say viewing opportunities are bleak. Yes, the most recent update from the Park, 2015, wolf population is at 57 but still a drop of more than 60% in just eight years. Great Risk?? Yes.
The risk is not in population numbers that is frequently stated. The risk is in individual wolves. The importance of individual wolves and family units are not cited as important in the narrative. Why is this continually ignored when the scientific data is there especially continuously coming out of Yellowstone National Park. The data is fully documented here in Denali but not recognized by your biologist. Family units do matter.
Individual wolves that get trapped or shot like in 2012 and 2015 do matter when the alpha pregnant female is shot and the alpha male is killed in the Stampede corridor. It is not just a number game. Yes, the narrative in the website does state these individuals were "most vulnerable to being legally harvested (i.e. trapped and shot) when they venture fearlessly beyond park boundaries." They follow the food, it is not a case of fearlessness. Face the fact that animals get shot legally or illegally. And if they get shot legally, it is still a lost to the Park not just a insinuation that nothing can be done to prevent it.
The narrative does go on to discuss the closures and attempts to continue the closures which is good, but does not say any thing how these family units were totally dissociated and lost. Is does not stay how one and two year olds can die living on their own or trying to join other units. Is does not say how the yearlings are not trained to survive on their own. It takes three years to fully instruct and teach a new wolf pup. Killing alpha parents is a major animal behavior situation that hurts the park's viewing opportunities and also answers the question: why the numbers are so low. It is the individual wolf that matters not population. Please ask the question why Yellowstone National Park has more sightings of wolves then Denali. The Biologist there get it like Rick McIntyre, park ranger.
On another note, wolves are not agriculture products that get harvested. Wolves, "park wolves", get killed when they get trapped or shot. Please stop using this nondescript word "harvest" to denote an actual life ending activity. State the fact, wolves are not harvested, they are killed.
The entire article has been updated from previous articles and I commend the Park biologist for the update and staging the question of viewing opportunity risk. The narrative does not go far enough in "What's next? Great question.
Denali Park does not address this question adequately. We all know that wolves will continue to follow the winter caribou to their feeding grounds. We don't need to study this. We don't need "to document where collared wolves are harvested," (killed). We know they get shot when baited or trapped and by whom. We do not need a "new study" to find the same results we know already. This is a delay tactic to a known tragedy that can only get worse.
What is the Park doing to "continue to advocate for measures that protect natural and healthy park wolf populations and provide opportunities for visitors to see wolves...." as stated in the last paragraph of the web site. What exactly are the biologist and park administrators doing to protect the wolves? No narrative at all. There must be something, anything other then "monitoring". We may not see their "wild charisma of their gait, their fur, their yellow eyes." Why? They may get harvested (killed) waiting for a new study.
I am a member of Alaskans FOR Wildlife in Fairbanks and this is what we are doing as advocates.
- We are soliciting, writing letters, personally visiting representatives of the state government including the governor to reinstate the Stampede border;
- Calling on Secretary Jewell to intervene
- We are asking the state to swap federal land for the Stampede Corridor and attach it to the Park;
- We are endorsing and promoting a non consumptive candidate for the Board of Game to get vital representation on this decisive Board.
- We are organizing residents and visitors of Denali National Park to participate in this endeavor
- We are contacting the news media
If the Park officials are doing something, anything then let us know. Maybe we can join forces with you instead of writing letters to you like this one.
Be a leader in the state and protect the animals that is your mission. Don't work in silence. Be an advocate.