Worth at least a thousand words…
“A storied Denali National Park and Preserve wolf pack is potentially down to one survivor — a female that apparently just had pups.
The black female was accompanied over the winter by a gray male with a radio-tracking collar. That male was killed legally this month by a hunter on state lands just outside the park, according to observations from a pilot doing wildlife monitoring flights.
Now park scientists are watching to see if pups will emerge from the den or if, as some fear, the loss of her possible mate has left the lone black female wolf alone and unable to feed her young or herself….
…Wolf activist Rick Steiner and others had hoped state officials would end legal wolf hunts just outside the park before more members of the East Fork pack died, setting up the need for a rescue.
“It’s truly an unfortunate, unnecessary situation,” Steiner said….”
One of the two remaining East Fork wolves of Denali National Park was shot this past weekend by a trophy hunter at a bear baiting station just outside park boundaries.
If this sounds eerily familiar, that’s because it is. This is just what happened exactly one year ago, when the pregnant female of the East Fork group was shot by an Outside trophy hunter at a bear baiting station in the same area. The loss of that one pregnant female wolf in 2015 led to the disintegration of the entire East Fork group, also called the Toklats, from 15 wolves down to just two this spring.
And now, with last weekend’s shooting of the radio-collared gray male dubbed “1508 GM” by park biologists, it appears the East Fork is down to one lone black wolf.
This is a historic loss. It leaves one remaining member of the wolf group studied by Dr. Adolph Murie, the subjects of his groundbreaking 1944 book, “The Wolves of Mount McKinley.” It leaves one from the group that Dr. Gordon Haber continued to study for another 43 years, until his untimely 2009 death in a plane crash while studying wolves.
This one family group of wolves was studied for a continuous 70 years, making them, along with the community of chimpanzees studied by Jane Goodall, the world’s oldest-known, longest-studied large mammal social lineage in the wild. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this gave the East Fork wolves inestimable scientific value.
But the state of Alaska apparently has no interest in such rare scientific value, no pride in a scientific record rivaled only by that of Goodall’s chimpanzee research. The state has allowed this valuable public wildlife resource to be decimated by hunting and trapping for decades. And the National Park Service has clearly failed its mandate of protecting natural processes in the park.
The state also seems to lack regard for the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who come to Denali to see wolves, many of them Alaskans. With the loss of the East Fork group in 2015, and the Grant Creek group in 2012 (also from hunting/trapping along the park boundary), viewing success of Park wolves plummeted. Almost half of park visitors were seeing wolves in the park until these deaths; now only about 5 percent are so fortunate…
“…As we whittle away at what little is left of our wildlands, the value of outdoor experience only grows. Last year National Park visitorship in the United States set records, and as 2016 is the 100th anniversary of what Wallace Stegner called the United States’ “best idea,” it’s important to consider that as our society becomes more urbanized more people seek out experiences in wild places. For Denali alone, and the surrounding communities, 530,000 visitors spent $5.24 million in the park and surrounding towns, supporting almost 7,000 jobs. In contrast, only a handful of trappers are known to operate in what used to be the buffer zone, garnering a minimal income where the average value of a wolf pelt in Alaska is a meager $215…”