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Alaska trapper shoots horse, uses it as wolf bait and snares important female wolf from Denali National Park

May 18, 2012 | Wolves

Contact: Rick Steiner, Professor and Conservation Biologist
Oasis Earth, Anchorage


dead horse

In an incident somewhat reminiscent of the "bad old days" of the Wild West, a trapper from Healy, Alaska apparently hauled a dead horse out to an area off the Stampede Trail near the boundary of Denali National Park - an area made famous by the 1996 book "Into the Wild" - and set snares all around the area hoping to catch wolves attracted to the carcass. Wolves from Denali National Park were drawn to the dead horse, resulting in the killing of a primary reproductive female wolf from the Grant Creek (also called Toklat West) pack from the park, along with at least one other wolf. It is unknown how long the two wolves were alive in the snares before being killed and collected by the trapper. In addition, the only other breeding female from the Grant Creek pack was just found dead yesterday near her den, and thus it seems certain that there will be no pups in this pack this year. The Grant Creek wolf pack has been one of the three packs most often viewed in Denali National Park.

The snares, set by Healy guide Coke Wallace, were on state lands along the north border of the national park, and within the former protected "Denali buffer" where from 2002 - 2010 trapping and hunting of wolves was prohibited to protect the park's wolves. Ignoring several proposals and hundreds of supporting comments from citizens in 2010 to expand the no-take Denali wolf buffer zone - including a proposal from Denali National Park itself - the Alaska Board of Game instead eliminated the protective buffer altogether. At the same time, the Board also imposed a moratorium on future consideration of any Denali wolf protection buffer proposals until 2016. Some have questioned the legality of the Board restricting public process in such a way.


While the Stampede snares were required to be removed by the May 1 close of the trapping season, the dead horse remains at the site (see attached May 6 photo), continuing to be a nuisance attractant to bears and other wildlife (note the recent public safety hazard caused by the attraction of a brown bear to carcasses dumped along the Seward highway near Anchorage). And the rotting horse carcass is just 1/2 mile upstream from a cabin owned by Susan and Dave Braun of Healy, right next to, and below the high-water level of, the stream where they, and others downstream, get their drinking water.

While the Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG) say the incident does not violate state law, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is looking at potential violations of state water quality regulations, which prohibit discarding carcasses in surface waters of the state.

The Grant Creek wolf family group ("pack") may be one of the longest-studied vertebrate lineages in the world, dating back at least to the 1930s when Adolf Murie studied them in the park. The pack's home territory is eastern Denali, and as it is one of the packs most viewed from the Denali park road, it is considered a high value resource for the several hundred thousand visitors that visit the park each summer (see attached photos of the Grant Creek pack from Dr. Gordon Haber).

Wolf Pups

Of concern in this incident is that the Grant Creek female was killed just after the mating season for Denali wolves (which is late February "“ early March), and thus it is likely that she was pregnant with what would have been a new litter of pups (perhaps this family group's only litter), when she was killed. Last year, park service biologists observed her nursing pups at the ancient Murie den, thus she would likely have been preparing to do so again this year. As such, her death causes a significant loss of new pups/recruitment to this important pack, and thus a loss of viewing opportunities for the many thousands of visitors to the park wanting to see wolves in the wild.

Research by the late Dr. Gordon Haber, who studied Denali wolves for over 40 years before he died in a plane crash conducting wolf surveys in the park in 2009, has clearly shown that the loss of even one reproductive female from a pack not only leads to the loss of that individual and all of her future pups, but also can cause significant effects to the social dynamics, behavior, distribution, and integrity of the entire pack. Park service surveys show that Denali wolf populations are significantly reduced from what they were several years ago, and one of the likely reasons is the continued take by hunters and trappers along the northeast boundary of the park.

"If anyone needed more evidence that the Denali buffer is essential to protect park wolves, here it is," said Rick Steiner, an Alaska biologist who was a friend and colleague of Dr. Haber's. "For one guy in Healy to earn a few dollars for a wolf pelt, the state of Alaska has sacrificed the extraordinary value of these living wolves to hundreds of thousands of park visitors. I will be formally requesting ADFG Commissioner Cora Campbell to issue an emergency closure of state lands in the area to wolf trapping and hunting before the season is set to reopen this November, in order to protect Denali wolves from this continuing threat."

Alaska writer Marybeth Holleman, who is completing a book on Denali wolves and Haber's research, said, "Because Haber is no longer studying these wolves, we don't know as much about this female as we could. However, based on his research, it's likely she was the only pregnant female in the group this year, and without any pups as a 'social glue' for this summer, this most-viewed family group may disintegrate and disappear from the park entirely."

Steiner has submitted proposals to the next round of Board of Game meetings (in 2013) to: 1) rescind the Board's moratorium on Denali buffer proposals, 2) impose a no-take buffer along the south boundary of the park, and 3) to shorten the hunting/trapping season for wolves statewide to November 1 "“ March 1, to protect pregnant females in spring and dependent pups in the fall.

Other contacts:

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell:
Commissioner of ADFG Cora Campbell:
Coke Wallace, Midnight Sun Safaris, Healy:; 683-4868


Wade did the law say that Coke Wallace was required to kill a horse and use it to lure a wolf just so he could shoot her? Just because hunting & trapping the wolves is legal doesn't make it any more acceptable. Coke Wallace has no hunting skill or he wouldn't need to do the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. If getting people riled up about an idiot like Wallace spurs them to take action to demand removing the moratorium on the buffer zone, I have no problem with that.

and my reply to Coke Wallace: Coke Wallace, I agree with regard to New Zealand's appalling lack of control over hunting, but that's not a reason for me to keep quiet about cruelty to wildlife, wherever it happens. If someone protests the disgusting trophy hunting, pig hunting and other totally unnecessary slaughters of animals in New Zealand, I welcome their protests wholeheartedly. I will continue to express my outrage to my government as long as it allows local and overseas dimwits to slaughter animals for no better reason than that they think it's fun. And yes, wouldn't it be wonderful if there were 48 hours in a day, then I could put everything into my own words! The fact is, I signed a pre composed letter of protest about something you don't give a damn about - the unnecessary slaughter of beautiful animals by ugly humans. Had I known you had visited NZ, I would indeed have added my OWN opinion and told you to stay the hell away if all you want to do is come here to trophy hunt. Oh, and by the way, we do have animal cruelty laws and anyone killing a horse for no better reason than to attract wild animals into traps, would be prosecuted. In case you forget, the point of the protest letter was "the brutal slaughter of a horse to attract and subsequently viciously kill wolves" by non other than yourself. You are a depraved individual, but thank you for your response. I appreciate you taking the time to create an original knee jerk reaction, rather than a well thought out pre written protest. C.A. Crunkhorn.

A reply from Coke Wallace on receipt of a protest letter I signed: On 25/05/2012, at 5:03 AM, coke wallace wrote: Wow Carol, I have been to your that has NO GAME LAWS AT ALL. There is more hunting that goes on in New Zealand than Alaska. You can shoot animals out of helicopters and everything. Why don't you save your outrage for your own country. If this is so upsetting to you, one would think that you could at least express your OWN opinion and not be a sheep ( you are familiar with those animals and how they follow each other, right?). Coke W. Wallace, Master Guide Midnight Sun Safaris PO Box 435 Healy, Alaska 99743 email: (907) 683-4868 Ph (907) 978-0929 Cell (907) 683-1201 Fax On May 22, 2012, at 10:55 PM, Carol Crunkhorn wrote: To Whom It Concerns, I am writing to protest the brutal slaughter of a horse to attract and subsequently viciously kill wolves, one of whom was likely pregnant. Humans have adopted dangerous constructs of speciesism, the prejudicial regard of non-human species, to validate the brutality inflicted upon them. Using this manufactured status of superiority, humans have sanctioned the use of animals as commodities, regarding them only as products to benefit our goals and needs. We embrace inequity to justify our treatment of animals, yet euphemistic descriptions meant to facilitate morality cannot disguise the fundamentally unethical parameters with which we surround ourselves to distinguish our dominance. As dangerous as racism and sexism, speciesism further divides the chasm between species, which desensitizes us to cruelty and inevitably leads to human inequality and injustice. This disregard of your most vulnerable group of beings is unacceptable, and until this barbarism is appropriately addressed including a mandatory ban of such, I will boycott. I and others will collectively voice condemnation, resulting in the sacrifice of vital tourism and commerce profits. Please act responsibly and with compassion and choose to protect, rather than sanction harm, to animals. Sincerely, C.A. Crunkhorn, Auckland, New Zealand.

An absolute disgrace !!! And yes I thought too that baiting was illegal, these killers who like to call themselves hunters think they are above all law, laws of the land and man made laws - there is no heart, no compassion to be found within these sorts of so called human beings.

Where is this "code of ethics" these hunters claim to live by?? I guess when a hunter is trapping they have a different code to live by ...The code to systematically slaughter and torture these wolves and other innocent animals that get caught in the traps,snares and in line of bullets.I just can't see a "humane" being in their right mind could let another living being suffer while pregnant or suffer while dying without feeling any remorse.

The Bastard's name is COKE WALLACE! He put that horse out there on purpose to lure a wolf. If Alaska wasn't so corrupt...he would of never thought of doing this. But the head of DF& W was just booted our for poaching (Cory Rossi) so they think they can do anything and kill with impunity. Google this idiot. He HATES wolves. He loves to kill.

There are people like this out there you should just DDD their stuff , Destroy, Dispose,and Deny, then they'll get it

Everything about this is appalling.

Simply wrong every way you look at this.

Trappers are sadists. They have NO RESPECT for wildlife what so ever. They are subhuman scum. They are the destroyers of wildlife.


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