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Moose Hunt Poses a Threat to Wolves in Denali

Researcher says nearby pack would be too easy to pick off

Doug O'Hara / Anchorage Daily News / August 30, 2005

A federal subsistence moose hunt set to begin Thursday in the heart of the Denali National Park and Preserve might bring hunters extra close to a wolf pack southeast of Kantishna -- raising old issues about how much protection should be given to the park's most closely studied animal.

The pack, with two adult female wolves and one large male, is often seen by visitors to the Kantishna-Wonder Lake area. This summer, the group is raising three pups in an open valley near an old mining trail and would be unusually easy to shoot by subsistence hunters searching for moose along the North Fork of Moose Creek, long-time wolf researcher Gordon Haber said.

Though not ordinarily targeted by subsistence hunters in late summer, wolves can be killed throughout the area's game management unit, which overlaps portions of the park, between Aug. 10 and April 30 under federal rules.

"This particular group has denned 18 to 20 miles to the northwest, but they're denning right smack in the middle" of the moose-hunting area, Haber said. "They're just sitting ducks. There's no way (hunters) won't see them or hear them howling."

As a result, Haber last week asked park superintendent Paul Anderson to cancel the hunt in the Kantishna area or take other steps to protect that wolf pack.

"If he allows those wolves to be shot, it would be frivolous and it would be just plain wrong," Haber said.

Anderson was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment. But other park officials said Anderson denied Haber's request because there was no biological reason to protect those wolves.

"It's not part of our policy to manage for specific individual animals," spokeswoman Kris Fister said. "It is to manage for the population as a whole."

The park has a healthy number of wolves, she said. Federal subsistence rules allow Anderson to restrict the hunt only if it would have an impact on the overall population or raise safety concerns for people.

Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at do'harra@adn.com.

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