I’m Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, an international animal advocacy group. At Friends of Animals, we acknowledge the inherent value of wolves. Regardless of whether we deem them endangered or plentiful, and whether or not we see them and believe they are beautiful, their individual lives and their freedom have meaning to them.
One need not subscribe to a specific view of hunting, trapping, or Alaska’s predator control programs to agree that Gordon Haber’s 43 years of year-round wolf research in the Denali, Fortymile and other areas of Alaska are key scientific studies on wolves here. Gordon, a longtime Denali resident who lived within the buffer area, studied Denali wolves, in the eastern section and elsewhere, year-round — with more intensity than anyone will ever likely match. Up until the tragic accident on October 14, 2009, Gordon Haber pressed for a protective buffer zone for the wolves of Denali National Park, to protect them from hunting and trapping.
Gordon emphasized that the current buffer areas do almost nothing to protect Denali wolves on their extraterritorial forays, which are underrated in importance. They constitute about 9 percent of the wolves’ winter travel. And when they involve areas of easy hunting or trapping, Gordon added, or the heavy development around Denali’s east and northeast boundaries, “it becomes a crapshoot to make it back home intact.” [Gordon C. Haber, “New Buffer Zone Provides Only Token Protection for Denali Wolves” – Friends of Animals’ ActionLine; Spring (2003)]
Hence, the Board should reinstate the 600 sq.-mile east and northeast boundary buffer, virtually identical to one an earlier Board created in November 1992 but — as Gordon wrote after Gov. Hickel halted several wolf control plans the Board had wanted for various areas of Alaska — “spitefully rescinded three months later.”
The goal of re-establishing meaningful protection for Denali’s wolves is best achieved by supporting Proposal 58, which has the full support of Friends of Animals, and our hundreds of members who reside in Alaska. There’s scientific justification for this full 600 sq-mile buffer, including Gordon Haber’s research.
Troy Dunn, a North Pole resident, and a pilot who flew Gordon for 10 years to monitor wolves, says Denali’s wolves face a gauntlet of traps and snares set by recreational trappers just inches from the Park’s boundaries. When winter food is scarce, the wolves follow caribou past the Park’s northeastern boundary, across a no-hunting area into a valley with lichens, which caribou seek. That valley is only half covered by the current buffer.
Trappers — including Coke Wallace and Chris Brockman, a Department of Fish & Game biologist who lives in Palmer — use snow-machines to move with snares and traps along the Park’s boundary and existing buffer area. In the last couple of years, Brockman’s traps have decimated the Margaret and Lower Savage family groups, as well as the Toklat and Eagle groups’ wolves. Stampede and Toklat Springs wolves are groups also vulnerable to Brockman’s trap lines.
Gordon wrote that Brockman and four or more other trappers already know there’s important long-term research going on in this area, by the National Park Service as well as Gordon. It’s evident by the radio collars that some of the trapped and snared wolves were wearing when caught.
These trappers exploit their legal ability to reduce Denali’s wolves to ruffs for the hoods of winter parkas, arguing that such deaths assure more moose and caribou for human hunters.
As Gordon stressed in his October 2002 research paper “Delineating a Protective Buffer Zone for Eastern Denali Wolves,” which helps define Proposal 58, “the buffer is a response to a problem generated largely by human activity and access, not a back-door attempt to expand the Park. Most of the wolf killing within this area is opportunistic and or recreational.”
Next summer, a half-million residents and tourists will enter Denali in the hope of seeing a wolf in the 6-million-acre National Park. If they do see wolves, they’ll surely feel, as I have, that they’ve had the most treasured outdoor privilege of their lives. If they know the wolves are respected within and on their forays outside of the Park, the good will Alaska generates will have no boundaries.
Friends of Animals
Testimony before the Board of Game, 26 Feb 2010 – Fairbanks