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Updated: Alaska 'Gunners' Wipe Out Wolf Pack From Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve


Helicopter-borne Alaskan predator control agents have killed an entire wolf pack from Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, prompting the National Parks Conservation Association to call for "immediate suspension" of the program near the national preserve.

National Park Service officials, meanwhile, are wondering why the shooters killed two radio-collared wolves, as the Park Service had an agreement with Alaska Fish and Game officials that collared wolves would be spared as they were part of a long-term study of wolf behavior in the preserve.

“We have meetings set tomorrow with state Fish and Game officials to ask that question," John Quinley, the Park Service's assistant regional director for communications and partnerships, said Thursday evening from his Anchorage office. "Basically, 'How did this happen? You’re two days into the (predator control) program and it’s already gone against the agreement that we thought we had pretty well in place, that was easy to understand.' We’re interested in how that fell apart so fast.”

The four wolves from Yukon-Charley's Weber Creek pack were killed Wednesday in the Fortymile area on the northwest side of the national preserve, the Park Service official said.

“We’ve been studying wolf populations in Yukon-Charley for 16 years and have a long data-set to understand the population dynamics," Mr. Quinley said. "These wolves are a value scientifically and they’re a value for visitors. Our position has been that we want to do all we can to maintain the naturally functionally ecosystems, which is a value of the Alaska parklands that you don’t find everywhere else.”

NPCA officials issued a statement Thursday saying "state gunners in helicopters killed the entire Weber Creek wolf pack from Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, including two collared wolves from a 16-year National Park Service scientific study."

"NPCA calls for the immediate suspension of the state’s wolf eradication program in and around Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve until the Park Service is fully satisfied that the biological integrity of Yukon-Charley wolf packs can be evaluated and a healthy population of wolves can be ensured," the parks advocacy group added.

The shootings of the pack came despite a Park Service request that no wolves from the nine packs denning in the preserve be shot due to this year’s high natural winter mortality, NPCA officials said. Park Service officials said the killings of the radio-collared wolves was the result of some sort of miscommunication.

“It seemed like fairly clear communication to us that they weren’t supposed to shoot wolves with collars," Mr. Quinley said. "Maybe that wasn’t as clear to somebody, but it’s definitely a concern to us.

"The number of wolves that in packs which spend considerable time in the preserve is now getting down lower than we would like it to be. I think we were at 30 (individuals), and we’re at 26," he added.

Compounding the problem is that harsh conditions this winter killed 38 percent of the preserve's wolves, a percentage that Mr. Quinley said was "on the high side of normal."

The shootings come less than two weeks after a particularly contentious Alaska Board of Game meeting when it comes to wolves and national parks. While the board was asked at one point to expand a no-take wolf buffer zone in an area surrounded on three sides by Denali National Park and Preserve, the board completely removed the buffer. And the state agency also did away with a regulation that required Alaska game officials to obtain Park Service permission before they conduct any predator control on parklands.

The second action, though, likely will have little affect on park lands, said Mr. Quinley, as the Park Service maintains authority over wildlife in those areas. "Our rules," he said, "prohibit the manipulation of one species to benefit another."

For Alaska game officials, though, the preference is to do away with predators so there is more game for hunters, said Mr. Quinley.

“They want to grow more moose and caribou," the Park Service official said. "They want to do it here in the Fortymile country, they want to do it south of Denali in those game management units. ... There’s a high interest in state Fish and Game and the Board of Game to grow moose and caribou for hunters, both local hunters or those from Anchorage, Fairbanks and the lower 48.”

Friends of Animals has called for a boycott on tourism travel to Alaska this year because of the Game Board's decision to do away with the buffer zone.


UNBELIEVEABLE, but then not really considering the subjects involved.

EXACTLY the results expected, & the reason that our month-long trip to Alaska this summer was C-A-N-C-E-L-L-E-D after the earlier policy announcement by the State of Alaska.
NEVER again will we return to where such mentality exists. Our tourist dollars will be spent elsewhere.

This is terrible news~how long will we continue to hear these reports of senseless killing of wildlife!

Mr. Hardy: I hope you let the governor and the tourism board know why.

I applaud the State of Alaska, let them manage their own wildlife.

Sounds like someone is not telling the truth. Go to Fairbanks Daily News Minor for the true story.
Most Alaskans will be glad to know Mr. Hardy and his bleeding heart, tree hugging kind won't be

DK, perhaps you could point out the differences in the stories?

Mr. Hardy, I hope you let state officials know about your decision, too. This screw-up is just the very tip of how bad wildlife management has become in Alaska recently. I'm a lifelong Alaskan and I can't tell you how frustrating is it to deal with the Board of Game up here. Hard as it is to believe, Sarah Palin turned out to be even worse than former Gov. Frank Murkowski on wildlife issues. (It's all about money--the Alaska Outdoor Council, which is pro-predator control, has a full-time lobbyist in Juneau and makes lots of campaign contributions. They usually have several members/former directors serving on the Board of Game.)

Before she quit, Palin appointed a family friend, Corey Rossi, to be in charge of "abundance management" (code for predator control) at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Until recently, he was a board member of Sportsmen for Wildlife, too. (Google them...many decent hunters are very unhappy with their tactics, which are making headway up here.) SFW pressured the the ADF&G commissioner to replace a long-time biologist in charge of the Division of Wildlife Conservation with Rossi, who has worked at ADF&G for only a year, if that.

The other deputy is Pat Valkenberg, who was a vice president of the Alaska Outdoor Council. His big thing is making it legal to trap bears. A few years ago, before his appointment, he proposed legalizing bear trapping and suggested it would be a great experience for visitors to accompany the trapper and shoot the bear in the trap, the way they do in Maine. The board didn't approve it then, but expressed interest. Guess what? Valkenberg is now preparing a plan to allow bear trapping (brown and black) outside of predator control areas for the next board meeting this fall.

Between them, they've pushed a scheme to allow SFW to hold what's basically a private camp to kill black bears over bait in a game management unit near Anchorage. A couple of years ago, the board authorized killing up to 60 percent of black bears in that unit, so they allowed an unlimited bag there, as well as the killing of sows and cubs (actually, ESPECIALLY females), using very sketchy science as a pretext. They've also allowed bear snaring there "experimentally" with a permissible "bycatch" of 10 brown bears that could be killed if accidentally caught. (I think they killed 3 brown bears and 88 black bears in snares last year.) Hunters have killed hundreds of black bears in that unit so far.

Rossi also pushed allowing SFW to "donate" helicopter use to transport shooters (they're not hunters) to that area. This January, the board quietly reclassified black bears as furbearers rather than big game, making it legal to trap them and sell their hides. The board chair, Cliff Judkins, said this was meant as incentive for hunters to kill more bears. The travesty is that the science supposedly supporting these plans is incomplete and shoddy. Wildlife biologists have been quitting and retiring because the department doesn't really do science anymore--most resources go to predator control.

These are bad, bad times for wolves and bears in Alaska, probably the worst since the predator control days of the 1950s. Heck, the territorial Game Commission outlawed selling bear hides in 1925. Many, many Alaskans have made their opinions on these matters known at board meetings, most recently on the Denali buffer. The board members simply don't care, and they don't have to. I'm sorry to say that any Outside organization will be ignored even if they send 50,000 protest letters. The only thing that could make a difference is (A) The election of a reasonable governor, probably a Democrat (which is fairly unlikely) or (B) a HUGE national outcry and tourism boycott. And even that might not work.

I salute your principles. Please make them known to Gov. Sean Parnell, to ADF&G Commissioner Denby Lloyd, to the Anchorage Daily News, and to all of your friends. If you were planning a cruise, let that company know, too. I guarantee that only a minority of Alaskans support this scale of predator control, if at all. We have almost no real reporting left in this state, so hardly anybody knows what's going on here in depth.

You can find contact information here:

Sorry for the length of this, but as you can see, it's a big disastrous mess.

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