Dozens of wolverine fans -- some wearing "Team Wolverine" buttons -- urged state park officials at a hearing Tuesday to counter the Alaska Board of Game and prevent wolverine trapping in Chugach State Park.
The park's advisory board had called the hearing at Anchorage's Loussac Library to gather comments.
Some who testified blasted Game Board members, including two leaning against a back wall. Many speakers said the larger, more lethal Conibear 330 traps often used for catching wolverines would endanger dogs and visitors. At the very least, those traps should be banned from the park, they said.
In March, the Game Board opened the park to wolverine trapping for the first time since 1973, despite a strong negative recommendation from area biologists concerned about the area's tiny wolverine population.
Some of the more than 40 speakers piled on them too, along with park officials attending the meeting, saying they should have commented on the Game Board proposal before it passed.
The board probably would have rejected the idea if the park had spoken against it, said Bill Sherwonit, part of a group called Team Wolverine that requested the hearing last month. Their buttons featured a wolverine face.
"I'm more disgusted with the Board of Game itself," he said.
The new trapping season will run from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31 in about half the 495,204-acre park. The opened areas include the Bird Creek, Indian Creek and Peters Creek drainages, the upper reaches of Ship Creek above Fort Richardson, and the entire eastern boundary of the park.
State game regulations have allowed winter trapping of coyote, fox, lynx and marten in those same areas for years. Trappers usually use smaller traps for those animals, traps that are less likely to kill dogs than the Conibear 330, the state has found.
Trapping won't be allowed in park areas receiving the most visitors, including the western boundary adjacent to the Anchorage Hillside, the Eagle River and Eklutna River drainages and Fort Richardson.
The park has few wolverines, biologists say. The latest available survey, done in 1995, put their numbers between 11 and 23 in the entire 1,900 square miles of state game management unit 14C, which encompasses Anchorage, Chugach State Park and remote backcountry to the east. Wolverine trapping has been allowed in the unit outside the park.
A few trappers spoke, saying they've never caught a dog or human in years of trapping. They don't want wolverines to disappear, they said.
Ben Worley, calling himself "one of those evil guys," said he's trapped game like marten in the upper Ship Creek area for decades. He's never seen a human there, but he's seeing more wolverines eating marten on his trap line, he said, including four in a three-week period last winter.
MOST OBJECT TO SEASON
Most of the 95 people at the hearing opposed the new season. Some held signs, including a two-sided one saying "Big Dead Life" and "Board of Shame." Many said they worry the park's wolverines will disappear.
That won't happen, said Game Board member Bob Bell. He pointed at a park map and told the audience the board had also reduced the wolverine trapping season in all of 14C, from 11 to six weeks. Fewer wolverines should be trapped.
"We thought we were doing the right thing," he said.
Area biologist Rick Sinnott, who didn't attend the hearing Tuesday, predicts more wolverines will be trapped. Wolverine trapping in 14C will now start five weeks later, but that's irrelevant because the unit's wolverines are almost never trapped in November, he said.
"The claim they're reducing it is a bit of a red herring," Sinnott said.
Among other things, speakers said they want the Game Board to repeal the season at its October meeting, with the advisory board making the request. Others asked the park to create buffers around areas commonly used for public recreation where no trapping could occur.
Park Superintendent Tom Harrison said he'll consider the ideas. He learned of the Game Board's proposal a month before it was passed, giving him little time to respond, he said. Also, with area biologists recommending against it, no red flags were raised.
"It's a lesson learned to some degree," he said.
Daily News reporter Alex deMarban can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.