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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

Please do sell us back to the russia, maybe we will finally get left alone, no that won't work, you are trying to tell Canada what to do about seal hunting oh well

I have been moose hunting since the 1980's and it would be a sure thing that i would get a moose the feed my family. But in the past ten years i have only gotten 5. So this year im gonna start trapping to dwindle the population of predators. Ya i know you guys like to look at them but me and my family will starve if they keep killing moose. [ Blog editors' note: Sounds bogus to us. Unjustified, too. Sounds like you need to look for a job to pay for the groceries.

Thank you for allowing my above submision to be posted. Also, let the record show that Gordon Haber is a biologist whose work is funded by the animal rights group Friends of Animals. [Blog editors' note: Dr. Haber's wolf surveys and field research are sponsored by FoA.]

I have a few logical points for all of you people who are against Alaska trying to control their wolf population: 1.) We all can agree wolves are part of nature. Guess what, so is man. Mankind has been part of nature for as long as man has been around. Wolves do what is in their interest - kill. So does man. 2.) Do you understand that the more wolves that are in Alaska, the less of all the other critters there will be alive. If the 3000 (est) wolves were removed from the state, there would very likely be a twofold (est) increase in general game populations. Wolves kill calves of moose and caribou, not man. Fact = 70% of all moose calves die before their first birthday due to predatation from wolves (and bears). Who's the bad one here again? 3.) Alaska is handling the wolf problem in...Alaska. Why can't Alaska handle their own issues whitout it becoming a national issue? To those of you who are against wolf control, I ask, are you living in Alaska? Ever even been there? If not, why do you let your emtions and feelings get in the way of what Alaskans themselves are doing? I think your intentions to save the wolf could be considered noble on the surface. However, this logic carried out to the extent that it has, ultimately goes against human nature. Regards, Winchester Mag

As to the above logic, the first point contains a fallacy of generalization. Wolves are not humans. While a wolf must kill another animal to survive, humans do not need to do so. Humans with rare exception are free to choose what they eat, where they live, and what they wear. The second point contains the fallacy of a hypothesis contrary to fact. It is unknown as to what would happen if the wolves were removed from Alaska. But one possibility is that Alaska's ecosystem would collapse. It's an ecosystem that had stood the test of time until humans entered the picture in far greater numbers than the wolves. Point three stated above contains the fallacy of an appeal to authority and is just more unsupported rhetoric -- peppered with questions whose answers should anyone be duped into answering them are of no relevance to the discussion of stopping wolf control. Bob Orabona Friends of Animals

We've received a post with substantial text regarding Isle Royale, Michigan wolves which is inapplicable to the instant case. Because many visitors seek information directly relevant to Alaska's biocommunity, politics, and control policies, and thus to avert confusion, we have not posted it, but we thank all readers and writers for their concern regarding this issue. A warm welcome to our newest participant -- Sierra!

To whom it may concern: I posted a reply to this blog, speaking of the Isle Royal moose/wolf study that has been going on for many decades. I posted the factual revelations of said study. I submited facts, not opinions, but for some reason that submition of mine was purposely not allowed to be posted by the moderator(s) I submit to you that the Isle Royal moose/wolf study is the closest we have for understanding pred/prey dynamics that has ever been conducted in North America. [Blog editors' note: The most relevant studies to the case in Alaska are those involving Alaska. And when it involves Board of Game actions, the lack of specific information pertaining to the herds in Alaska is just as important to notice. We want to assure the writer that we are appreciative of the correspondence, and we did contact a wolf biologist to ensure we were not dismissing relevant information.] [Winchester Mag continues:] Please allow me to add further to the discussion with an attempt to bring factual data to the surface, as opposed to posting what may be percieved as mere opinion. One of the best sources for predator/prey dynamics regarding moose and wolves can be learned from the studies conducted at Isle Royal Michigan. To my knowledge, this is one of the most indepth studies in an area where moose and wolves co-exist. For the record, there has never been hunting for either speices, at least in the last 50+ years. A breif bio of the Isle Royal moose and wolf being self introduced to the island = moose have only been present since about 1900, and wolves since about 1950. Isle Royale wolves are the only predator of moose. Summers of Isle Royale are short and cool, the defining season of Isle Royale seems to be its long, snowy winters. Typically, the first frost arrives in mid-September, and a month later the first snows will have fallen. A very similar climate to many parts of Alaska. Onto the results of the 50 plus year old and ongoing study: Aerial surveys provide an opportunity to estimate how often wolves kill moose. Sites where wolves have killed a moose are routinely found by following wolf tracks in the snow. At the end of each winter season they took the total number of kills found, divided by the number of days that they observed the wolves, and divide that number by the total number of wolves on the island. The result is a statistic known as the per capita kill rate. When joined with predator-prey theory, this statistic reveals tremendous understanding about how the number of wolves influences the number of moose and vice versa. By collecting this statistic each year for more than 20 years, they have been able to examine how the per capita kill rate changes with, for example, climatic conditions, abundance of moose, and abundance of wolves. On average, a pack with four wolves might kill about 28 moose a year -- that's one moose every 13 days. Source -http://www.isleroyalewolf.org From that website, it illustrates the the population estimates of both species for the last 40+ years. In 1965 the data shows 700 moose/30 wolves. 1970, 1250 moose/18 wolves. 1980, 800 moose/50 wolves. 1996 the moose population peaked at 2500 moose/16 wolves (4 wolves from the all time low). 2005 data shows 450 moose/30 wolves. In my estimation, there is a stark contrast in numbers when the wolf numbers go up, the moose numbers go down. additionaly, it makes mention of an estimated moose population in 1930 of two or three thousand moose, which is decades before the wolf took up resedency there. We can all agree that the wolf does indeed belong in the ecosystem. However, it has been well documented that they have a major negative overall impact on the populations of other wildlife, hence the predator control programs that the state of Alaska, and their biologists, wish to implement. In closing, I submit that if wolf numbers are kept in check, far more amimals will exist long enough to see their first birthday. I fail to see why allowing more moose calves a chance at life is bad. Hopefully if the moderators here are not too terribly insecure, they will allow my post to go through. Thank you for allowing me to speak in this discussion. Regards, Winchester Mag [Wolf biologist Gordon Haber responds: Contrary to the writer’s claims, there is no scientific (or other) justification for the Alaska wolf control programs. The writer relies on details from wolf-moose research on Isle Royale. However, as an island, Isle Royale is a special ecological case: it does not allow for much wolf and moose ingress and dispersal. Thus Isle Royale is not very relevant to the mainland systems at issue in the Alaska wolf-moose controversies, where ingress, dispersal, and seasonal migrations of wolves and moose are of central ecological importance. The Alaska wolf control programs – which originate from Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) biologists without peer review via a dark-ages state “Board of Game” process – have been widely discredited by scientists inside and outside Alaska. (citations omitted). Perhaps the simplest way to debunk the underlying claims about needing to do wolf control if there is to be moose hunting is to consider Game Management 20A, an 8,000 square mile area south of Fairbanks. According to ADFG’s reports, since 1983 (a), GMU 20A moose numbers have increased 2-3-fold in the presence of natural or near-natural wolf numbers and (b), 20A has become by far the best moose hunting area in Alaska and one of the best anywhere.]

We all take the view point we choose and defend it. What strikes me is that no human lives in a bubble and has zero impact on the planet. But we then decide what we do is okay and that we alone have the discernment of what is moral, valid, justified etc and and if someone falls outside of our parameters then they are wrong. Example-how many friends of the earth types drive cars, wear petroleum based synthetics etc...how many sea mammals, seabirds, fish etc were killed by oil spills so they could drive their automobile or wear their polypropolene fabrics or whatever? Madonna singing to save the rain forest while she tools around in her Mercedes and lives in mansions. Even Gordon Haber pollutes. My thoughts may be seen as ridiculous so argue in which ever way you see fit and fight for your cause but he who is without sin cast the first stone.

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