The state of Alaska is closing wolf hunting early in the Stampede area along the northeastern edge of Denali National Park.
The emergency shutdown ends the season two weeks ahead of its scheduled closure. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game action follows the killing of two Denali wolves shot earlier this month on state land, near a bear baiting station. A state release says bear hunting regulation changes have resulted in more hunters in the area. Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton says the situation increases the chances of wolves commonly seen in the park, being taken.
Individuals and environmental groups petitioned the state to take the action to better protect a Park wolf population that’s plummeted to 48 this spring, its lowest level on record.
State Division of Wildlife Conservation Acting Director Bruce Dale says there’s no biological or conservation issue. Wolf viewing has declined in recent years, but trapping and hunting aren’t the only reason cited by biologists, who also point to low snow winters that have made it tougher for wolves to prey on caribou and moose. Wolf advocates want restoration of a protective buffer zone along the park’s north eastern boundary. The board of game eliminated the wolf buffer in 2010.