ALERT-Restrict Denali-Area Wolf Hunting – Comments Needed to the BOG!

Please Tell the Board of Game to Vote YES to approve a shortened hunting season adjacent to Denali National Park to help protect wolves.

Dear Wildlife Supporter,

The Alaska Board of Game (BOG) will meet in Fairbanks beginning March 18 to consider dozens of proposals to change statewide wildlife management regulations. We believe that one of the most important to our members will be Proposal #141, which would shorten the wolf hunting season on state land adjacent to the park boundary.

BACKGROUND: The proposal would shorten the wolf hunting season in a portion of the Stampede Corridor by six weeks in the spring to avoid overlap with the bear baiting season. Last spring a male wolf and a pregnant female wolf from the East Fork pack were legally shot near a bear baiting station in that area. The East Fork wolves, one of the packs most easily seen by park visitors, did not den or produce pups last year, according to National Park Service (NPS) monitoring.

As our members are well aware, AWA and other groups have been working long and hard to get the BOG to stop the killing of wolves when they cross from the park onto state land. The park wolf population remains at a record-low count of about 50 wolves, and mortality due to hunting on state land is recognized as a significant contributing – and preventable – cause.

Shown above is the area known as the Wolf Townships or Stampede Corridor_ which is excluded from Denali National Park _green_ and managed by the state. Proposal _141 would restrict wolf hunting in the yellow area_ the expanded area proposed by AWA and DCC is shown in orange_ and the boundary of prior buffer zone requests is drawn in red.

Shown above is the area known as the Wolf Townships or Stampede Corridor_ which is excluded from Denali National Park _green_ and managed by the state. Proposal _141 would restrict wolf hunting in the yellow area_ the expanded area proposed by AWA and DCC is shown in orange_ and the boundary of prior buffer zone requests is drawn in red.

This proposal by the NPS was presented to the BOG in January as an Agenda Change Request and was approved for inclusion on its March agenda. Our members will recall that at the same time AWA, in partnership with the Denali Citizens Council (DCC), presented an ACR to have a wolf buffer proposal considered during the March meeting. The BOG denied our request by a vote of 5-1. AWA and DCC are again cooperating to support #141 (with important modifications, as discussed below).

Although we are enthusiastically supporting # 141, we want to be clear to our members – and especially to the Board – that we do not consider this a substitute for a no-wolf-hunting-and-trapping buffer zone adjacent to the park. We have been advocating for such a buffer for years – as the wolf population and visitor viewing success have steadily declined – and we will continue to do so. Proposals for such a buffer can be presented without prior approval at the BOG’s March 2017 meeting.

Click here http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=gameboard.proposalbook and scroll down to Proposal 141 to read the full NPS proposal.

Comments may be submitted to the Board of Game via email. Click on the Submit Comment box at www.boardofgame.adfg.alaska.gov.

Comments must be received by Friday, March 4 at 4:30 pm. (AKST)

THE PROPOSAL: #141 would end the wolf hunting season in the western portion of Stampede Corridor on April 15 (instead of May 31) to coincide with the opening of the bear baiting season. This would prevent the killing of wolves attracted to the baiting stations. The BOG extended the bear baiting season several years ago, but 2015 was the first year in which wolf kills were documented as result of bear baiting activities. After the two wolves were killed near a bait station last year, a state-issued Emergency Closure ended the wolf hunting season two weeks early, on May 15.

AWA and DCC strongly urge the BOG to expand the scope of Proposal #141 to include the following modifications:

  1. Apply the shortened hunting season to the remainder of the 2016 hunting season. If approved in March, by law the change would not take effect until the 2016-17 regulatory year, beginning July 1. This would leave the wolves still vulnerable to killing at bait stations this spring. As evidenced in 2015, the loss of even a single breeding female can exacerbate the population decline among park wolves. Given the liberal harvest limits it is possible that more than one breeder could be attracted to and killed near a bait station.
  1. Include the entire Stampede Corridor (east to the Parks Highway) in the new regulation. Wolves migrate through the Corridor in pursuit of prey as far as and across the highway. The entire Corridor is open to bear baiting, and the last easternmost section would be a relatively small addition.
  1. Change the hunting season closure to an earlier date. NPS data shows that wolves in the park breed as early as the first week of March. Closing the hunting season on March 15 or April 1 would protect the breeding wolves and therefore hasten a rebound in the population.
  1. Shorten the wolf trapping season to coincide with the shorter hunting season as indicated in #3, to either March 15 or April 1. Currently trapping does not end until April 30, and wolves also can be shot at trap lines. There is no harvest limit on trapping. If the trapping season remains unchanged, the wolves – especially the breeders – will remain vulnerable to loss, the very result that this proposal is intended to mitigate.

TALKING POINTS:

Please begin your comments by stating:

Proposal 141 – Support with the addition of the four modifications as detailed in the comments submitted by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and the Denali Citizens Council.

The talking points below are suggestions – please use the information to compose your own message.

* The Denali wolves that den in the northeastern area of the park and cross the boundary onto state land are unique: they are the most easily viewed wolves in Alaska. They are an important financial, cultural and scientific resource and as such deserve special management considerations. More than 500,000 visitors come to Denali each year, spending more than $5 million in the local economy. High on their must-see lists is wildlife, especially wolves.

* Currently the park wolf population remains at a near-record low: visitors’ chances of seeing a wolf are a near-impossible 4 percent. A significant cause for the decline is hunting and trapping adjacent to the park. Proposal 141 would remove hunting and trapping pressure when the wolves are most vulnerable, during breeding season.

* Proposal 141 should be approved with the following modifications: immediate implementation in the 2015-16 regulatory year; expansion to include the entire Stampede Corridor area; closure of the hunting season earlier, on Mar 15 or April 1st; and closure of both the hunting and trapping seasons on April 15.

* Proposal 141, even if passed with all of the requested modifications, is not a substitute for a no hunting/trapping buffer zone adjacent to the park. It will not provide the same protection as a buffer and it is supported only as a partial, interim solution to offer a measure of protection to breeding wolves.

* Without these changes in regulations, it is entirely possible another breeding female will be killed this spring. The result – as the NPS documented in 2015 – will be continued low wolf population counts and dismal prospects for visitors who come to Denali with the hope of seeing a wolf.

* The Alaska Department of Fish & Game acknowledged that instances of wolves from the park being attracted to and killed at bear-baiting stations was an unforeseen consequence of a recent change in those regulations. Given the resulting impact on the area’s already-low wolf population, the BOG has the duty to revisit the issue and correct the problem.

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GIVEN THE BOG’S ACCEPTANCE OF THIS PROPOSAL FOR ITS MARCH MEETING, WE ARE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC THAT IT WILL RECEIVE A FAIR HEARING.

ON BEHALF OF THE DENALI WOLVES, PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO THE BOG. WE MUST KEEP PRESSURE ON THE BOG TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE. YOUR VOICE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Thank you for supporting AWA and for your ongoing commitment to protecting Alaska’s wildlife.

PS: We will send another email regarding the details of the March meeting and the procedure for testifying in person, for those who will be in Fairbanks. We also will let you know the outcome of these and other proposals after the conclusion of the BOG meeting.