Wolf pack in jeopardy

The two primary breeding females at Denali National Park have been killed.

Posted: May 27, 2012

SEATTLE - The two primary breeding females from the best-known wolf pack at Denali National Park - a pack viewed by tens of thousands of visitors each year - have been killed, one of them by a trapper operating just outside the boundary of Alaska's premier national park.

The incident has raised an outcry among Alaska conservationists. They're demanding an immediate halt to wolf trapping in what was formerly a buffer zone northeast of the park, an area made famous as the scene of the abandoned school bus in Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild.

The trapper apparently shot an aging horse and left it as a lure for the wolves, according to residents in the area. Park officials, who have unsuccessfully sought to maintain a no-hunting buffer alongside the park, said two wolves, at least one of them from the well-known Grant Creek pack, were fatally snared near the carcass.

One of the dead wolves was equipped with a radio collar attached by scientists; it was the only female from the pack known to have raised pups last year. The pack's only other known breeding female was found dead near the pack's den, probably of natural causes. A third wolf, also snared near the horse carcass, was a male that may or may not have been part of the Grant Creek pack, said Tom Meier, wildlife biologist for Denali National Park.

"It's always disappointing to lose animals that close to the park boundary, and it also was disappointing because it was inside what used to be ... the buffer zone," Meier told the Los Angeles Times.

Rick Steiner, an independent wildlife conservation biologist and former professor at the University of Alaska, has petitioned the state commissioner of fish and game for an emergency closure of the former buffer area northeast of the park to allow the pack to regroup.

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