Juneau – On Monday, legislation to protect the ability of visitors to the Denali National Park to see wolves in the wild was advanced out of the House Resources Committee. House Bill 105, sponsored by Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), seeks to create an area along the eastern border of the Denali National Park that is closed to the hunting and trapping of wolves.
“Denali National Park is one of the best places on earth to view wolves in the wild and hundreds of thousands of visitors a year make the trip to Denali, many of them specifically to look for wolves,” said Rep. Josephson. “However, in recent years fewer and fewer visitors report seeing wolves. This lack of success in catching sight of a wolf in the wild is due, in my opinion, to the removal of a no hunting buffer zone on the park’s eastern boundary back in 2010.”
The Alaska Board of Game created the no wolf hunting buffer zone adjacent to Denali National Park in 2000 to protect the wolves in and around the park. The Board of Game changed course in 2010 by voting to remove the buffer zone. This led to a measurable decrease in the success of visitors in seeing a wolf in the wild. In 2010, 45 percent of visitors reported seeing a wolf. By 2014, less than 6 percent of visitors were able to see a wolf. In the spring of 2006, the Denali National Park wolf population was estimated at 116. By the spring of 2014, the population had dropped to an estimated 50 animals.
“By closing off this important area of wolf habitat to hunting and trapping, we can ensure there are wolves for people to view in and around Denali National Park,” said Rep. Josephson. “Increased tourism is good for the Alaska economy and more wolves are good for Denali.”
HB 105 advanced out of the House Resources Committee on a 5-4 vote. The bill will now go to the House Finance Committee for consideration.