September 19, 2021

Wolf Population in Denali Low, Blamed on Hunting and Trapping

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The Alaska Dispatch carried an article about a petition generated to shut down hunting and trapping in boundary areas of Denali Park because wolves in the park have dropped from a population of 143 to 50 in about 8 years. But hunting and trapping isn’t the problem.

It was great that the author pointed out how well the fish and game department managed wildlife in a Game Management Unit adjacent to the park but never would come out with an explanation of why there was no prey left for the wolves inside Denali. The author states that, “When prey is abundant, wolves flourish. When prey populations are low, wolf populations become low.” A true statement but what allows or what is responsible for prey populations becoming low? That’s the most important question that should be answered.

Anyone who knows wolves understands that the savage predator can destroy a prey base and then move on. Once the prey base is gone, basically one, or any combination of events, can occur – 1. Wolves move to other areas where prey exist and do the same thing. 2. Wolves die from starvation and disease. 3. Wolves resort to cannibalism.

Chances are pretty good that what is going on in Denali is that the wolves, and they are protected in the park, are effectively destroying their own prey base and thus themselves. If wolf populations have been cut by nearly two-thirds, it might allow for a short period for prey to respond positively, provided it isn’t below sustainable levels, which will bring wolves back for a time to bring the prey species back down very low again. This could be labeled a predator pit depending upon other factors.

The author also points out that the adjacent Game Management Unit, a mass of acreage considerably smaller than Denali, is being perpetuated by wildlife officials for 10,000 moose, 300 wolves and still humans can harvest moose meat. Denali is a protected park and we see the results.

Also of note: This article shows the author’s discovery to two things – people’s complete ignorance of wolves, wolf management and ecosystems and the obvious bias toward anti hunting and trapping and NOT pro wolf. Some of the comments he reveals are pretty funny.

*Update* (4/2/2015 10:01 am) – I was sent another article from Alaska that quotes the Alaska Board of Game director as saying, “[L]ow numbers of moose and caribou were to blame for low wolf population levels.”

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