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Wolf Scientist Says Denali Wolf Pack is Decimated

March 05, 2005 | Wolves

by Mary Pemberton
*AP, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Published: March 4, 2005)*

Anchorage (AP) -- Trappers are picking off the remaining members of a wolf pack that has strayed from Denali National Park and Preserve onto state land, a researcher who has studied the pack for a decade said Friday.

Gordon Haber, whose work is paid for by the animal rights group Friends of Animals, said it was alarming and he would again appeal to the state for an emergency closure of hunting and trapping in the area.

"All of these wolves have been trapped," Haber said. "This group that has been around for the last 40 years is virtually on its last legs."

Alaska trapping season runs through April 30.

He planned to make a personal appeal to the Alaska Board of Game at its meeting Friday in Anchorage.

The group, known as the Toklat or East Fork wolves, are one of Denali's most visible wolf packs, delighting thousands of park visitors each year.

Haber's account, at this point, is unsubstantiated, said Philip Hooge, an assistant superintendent at Denali. But he said the park was worried enough to send wildlife biologist Tom Meier on a flight Friday to the area where the alpha, or breeding female, was trapped last month.

"Gordon only seeing two individuals is not positive confirmation that they were trapped," Hooge said. "Obviously, we are concerned and we are out looking."

Hooge said the park also had heard reports that a second female in the pack was trapped and a pup was running around with a trap on its leg. Those reports, too, are unconfirmed, he said.

Haber wants the state to issue an emergency hunting and trapping closure where the remaining members of the pack have been seen after the death of the alpha female. It is within a few hundred feet of the park's northeast boundary and on the outside edge of a wolf buffer zone.

The state refused a previous request that Haber made in a letter Feb. 17 to Wayne Regelin, acting commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Regelin responded five days later in a letter that said the loss of one wolf did not rise to the level of an emergency.

Regelin did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

"Essentially the group has been decimated," Haber said. "Yesterday, I found them right in the middle of the area."

The problem arose Feb. 11 when Haber said the alpha female, or breeding female, was trapped. He and a pilot were on a routine tracking flight when they watched as trapper Coke Wallace loaded the radio-collared wolf onto a sled for the ride to his home 12 miles away, Haber said.

When Haber flew over the area on Wednesday he saw only three members of the original 11-member group. The alpha male, a 2-year-old and a pup were resting on a high ridge inside the park about four or five miles from the trapping site, he said.

On Thursday, he spotted only two members of the group, the alpha male and the 2-year-old. This time they were 10 miles further east and in the middle of the trapping area. The pup was missing, Haber said.

The wolves are being lured to the area by a bait station with the carcass of a large animal, perhaps a horse, Haber said.

"Each time they come back apparently they are being trapped. They don't realize how dangerous the area is," Haber said.

It is unlikely that the other members are alive, especially since they were 2-year-olds and pups, he said.

"There is no reason why they would be separated on their own," Haber said. "They have never been separated in all my previous observations."

Haber said the Toklat group is one of the most visible and most-studied pack in Denali, perhaps dating back to the late 1930s.

Haber said after the alpha female was killed he appealed unsuccessfully to Wallace to pull up his traps and snares, placed on a path cleared by snowmobiles just outside the buffer zone.

Wallace has not returned repeated calls from The Associated Press for comment. He told the Anchorage Daily News that since there are thousands of wolves living in central Alaska the killing of just one has no impact.

"I haven't done anything wrong," he said. "My impact out here is inconsequential."

Comments

"How can we help you, Gordon Haber?" Message from a reader of the Los Angeles Times about a member of the Toklat Pack being trapped outside the park: I have signed hundreds of petitions to Alaskan authorities to no avail. I work as a volunteer with big cats and wolves and I am just so frazzled about this situation. I have visited Denali 4 times in the past 4 years and I don't want to go back this year due to the killing of the wolves. Sincerely,
Vivian McNamara.
El Segundo, California

Petitions to Alaska's politicians, or to the Secretary of Interior, don't have the impact of a pledge to boycott travel to Alaska until the wolf control program is cancelled. See the wolf photograph on FoA's Web site, and click onto "Virtual Howl-In" to send your Boycott Alaska message to Gov. Frank Murkowski. To support Gordon Haber's work and FoA's interventions for Alaska's wolves, your membership support is needed. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

While I can understand your views, wolves are not cuddly little puppies. They are not your garden variety dog, who you could bring in to your home and tame. They are wild animals who kill moose at an alarming rate. As a life-long Alaskan, I can say that over my lifetime I have seen the amount of moose around dramatically drop. I can't understand why you stand behind the wolves so much, but you don't care at all about the decimation of our moose population. While you may not agree with the aerial hunting, I assure you it is necessary. You are unfairly presenting the aerial hunting. It is not the round up chase down hunt that you portray it as. In fact, anyone who knows anything about flying would know that the commercials you put out with a plane in hot pursuit of a cowering wolf could tell you that it would be impossible to hunt a wolf like that. Planes just don't have that capability. I have nothing against you, or your points of view. I just feel you are inappropriatly portraying Alaskans as a bunch of wolf killing heathens. Believe it or not, we don't wear wolf fur coats all around and eat wolf puppies for breakfast. Everyone in this state appreciates the majesty and beauty of wolves. However, we also appreciate the moose, who are a big symbol of Alaska themselves. Please, if you are going to be posting all of these stores about Alaska, and Alaskans, get your points straight and be fair to us.

In reply to Jennifer's thought that we're "portraying Alaskans as a bunch of wolf killing heathens," we assert that Alaskans don't speak in one voice. Moreover, the image wolf-haters cast through numerous blog postings are their own creation. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

I am bemused by the hubris inherent in the concept of 'animal management' . Would it not be wisdom manifest if we humans would establish LARGE no-hunting zones, and let the wolves, caribou, bears and moose sort it out? After all, they were coexisting in a population harmony long before humans intervened. Is there a subsistence living coefficient to consider? Then so be it. If traditions are to be preserved, hunt with traditional methods. No traps. No guns. No snow machines. Enter the food chain, boys. Problem is, humans are parasitic in their invasion of wild lands. Each individual must get their 'fair share', without consideration of the destructiveness of their exploitation. Perhaps the moose population is declining because of human impact??? Humans must drive everywhere, and they insist on driving at high speeds, at night, cell phone in one hand, coffee in the other.... oops... oh well... what's one more moose?

Well said Beth. These beautiful animals were living in harmony long before humans messed things up by disrupting the natural balance of life. Today's hunters with their $1,000+ guns, laser scopes, chemical scents, aircraft and deadly traps ARE PARASITES without mercy. Stop killing moose and ALL wild animals. You're no longer cave people. But you see it's more than just food to a lot of hunters. Sadly, some just love to kill and watch the animal fall and bleed. I think it's a defect of some sort. The need to feel big and powerful over something. Blame yourselves Alaskans and check the facts on your lying game board too!!

I cannot decry subsistance hunting. Life lives on life, and if I do not kill my own food, another hunter will do it for me. Trophy hunting, on the other hand, is a deplorable offense against life. If you have studied population ecology, then you are familiar with the predator/prey relationship. When the coyote population flourishes, the rodent population diminishes. Some coyotes starve to death, or are weakened and killed, and the rodent population responds with a surge. Our tender human sensibilities do not like to see the starving and suffering, so we interfere with Programs. It is our emotional engagement that causes the problems! Ultimately, human populations fit the ecological model. Our population continues to grow geometrically, therefore other animal populations recede. Stem the human tide, and some harmony will reestablish itself. Animal Management Programs are just temporary distractions. It is the human population problem that must be addressed.

I will decry subsistence hunting. Especially of wolves. There is no need for it today. Try eating vegetables. But let Alaskans follow their foolish ways. Let them appoint the senator's daughter to represent them. Let them kill off their famous wolves for a few hundred dollars. Let them spoil their parks for a bit of oil proceeds. And let's see where all this "management" leaves them. One day soon we may be able to sell Alaska back to Russia for roughly what we paid for it.

I made my way here by an article up on MSNBC and then had to google the matter to bring me here. I'm saddened due to the fact that one, this is allowed to happen. I've loved wolves since I was in 4th grade and had first even read about them. I credit the novels by Jean Craighead-George for my continueing love of the wolf. The gruesome and cruel deaths that are being submitted to them now shock me. Haven't we passed this already? Didn't we realize the cruelty years and years ago? Of course, that was when we were all joined in order to help the wolf survive and encourage their numbers to what they are today. Now that they are in not-so-desperate straits, I suppose it's ok to hunt them? I don't understand the need to hunt something like that, it's entirely ironic. But I'm preaching to the choir and it's nothing no one here hasn't heard or thought. And now I feel so helpless, as a girl out in Midwestern Nebraska where a place like Alaska is so far away. If I knew a way to honestly help, rather than just talking to a wall as it were - I'd surely like to know how.

I, too, made my way here via MSNBC and then Google. After reading about the inhumane trapping and snaring of ANY animal, not just the wolves, it still amazes me that we consider ourselves human beings. It appears to me that animals are much more "humane" than the humans are! I have never seen animals subjecting other animals to slow, agonizing deaths. Nor do I know of instances of animals killing just for the sake of killing. Humans not only do this to animals, we do this to other human beings, as well. It is absolutely incredible that we are supposed to be the more intelligent species...hmmmm. I think "natural selection" of humans is a little slow in coming! My feelings of frustration in not being able to immediately stop this cruelty from happening is overwhelming. Education takes time and must be targeted at the young and those with enough intelligence and sensitivity to be able to learn. Unlike Mr. Wallace which is quite evident in his ending comment in the article above.

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