Riley Creek Wolf Pack

A wolf from the Riley Creek Pack, photographed by Park staff in 2017, wanders alongside the Denali Park Road. NPS Photo/Andrew Kirby

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang has denied a request for an emergency order to close an area adjacent to Denali National Park to the taking of wolves by hunting or trapping.

The request, which was sent July 25, included a petition signed by more than 60 individuals and was prompted by a make-shift survey conducted by a Denali Park Road bus driver who said he hasn’t seen a wolf at all so far this year.

In an Aug. 13 letter, Vincent-Lang wrote that, using the best available information, he determined that the population status of the Park’s wolves does not constitute an emergency, nor the need for an emergency meeting of the Board of Game. Vincent-Lang cited state statutes that define emergency as an event that “threatens” a resource.

“The Department’s management goal for wolves in the Fairbanks area (Units 20A, 20B, 20C, 20F, and 25C) is a fall density of 4.2 wolves/1000 km2 (11 wolves/1000 mi2). The Department is meeting this goal at this time,” Vincent-Lang wrote. “Annual wolf harvest in the proposed closed area is low and does not compromise our wolf population goal.”

Vincent-Lang also pointed out that, although wolf sightings hit a peak in 2010, data from National Park Service reports show that the average probability of visitors seeing a wolf between 1997 and 2018 is roughly 15%.

“Wolf sightings depicted in the petition’s graph during 2017 and 2018 are slightly higher than this long-term average,” Vincent-Land wrote.

Rick Steiner, a board member of the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — and among those behind the request — expressed his disappointment in an email to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“Clearly, the Alaska Board of Game and ADF&G remain unwilling to acknowledge the value of wildlife viewing at Denali, and the clear impact of hunting and trapping on visitor viewing of wolves in our state’s most valuable tourism destination,” Steiner wrote. “To many Alaskans, today’s decision again highlights the broken wildlife management system in Alaska, in which only hunting and trapping interests are represented, while the far more valuable, majority interest in wildlife — non-consumptive, wildlife viewing — is ignored.”

The Board of Game will consider two proposals regarding a buffer zone in the aforementioned area at its meeting in March. 

Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.