Last year, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, sponsored House Bill 105, which seeks to re-establish a buffer zone to protect wolves near Denali National Park from hunters and trappers. The Alaska Board of Game previously created such a buffer and removed it in 2010. Josephson’s bill passed the House, 22-18, with all the “yes” votes from the Democrat-led Alaska House Majority Coalition. The Republican majority in the Senate responded with a new release descrying the House for passing an “environmentalist” bill during a budget crisis.
The bill received renewed attention last month when it got a hearing in the Senate Resources Committee.
Also last month, concerns about a large wolf harvest this year in the Denali area caused Gov. Bill Walker’s administration to shorten the wolf season with an emergency order. A second emergency order Tuesday expanded the area.
Josephson, who advocated for his bill at the Senate Resource Committee March 23, said he felt the committee treated the bill seriously, but he doesn’t think it has much of a chance of passing the Senate.
“I’d be surprised if it got another hearing,” Josephson said in an interview. “That’s just the nature of things. I had to work extremely hard to get it past the House. The Senate Resources Committee is quite conservative and tends to have less interest in wildlife watching and nonconsumptive rights.”
Josephson argued that the interests of hundreds of thousands of park visitors have in seeing wolves needed to be balanced against a handful of trappers who harvest wolves near the park boundary.
Another wolf hunting kerfuffle taking place around the state centered on images that are circulating out there claiming they were taken near Denali.
The news release, from DC-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, was titled “Assault rifle slaughter of wolves outside Denali.” It includes a photo of a hunter whose face has been obscured posing with a snowmachine, wolf carcasses and a AR-15-style rifle.
The hunt depicted in the PEER news release has been investigated and was lawful, Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a joint news release Tuesday. Troopers also said the hunt took place about 70 miles east of the park boundary.
“Investigation has determined the animals were taken in Game Management Unit 13B and not in the Healy area as alleged,” according to the news release. “The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has confirmed the wolf hides were properly received and sealed at a regional office.”
Rick Steiner, a PEER board member who lives in Anchorage, said Tuesday that the statements show the state hasn’t been forthcoming with information about the hunt seen in the photograph.
“For the record, the state first told us they knew nothing whatsoever about this incident, then just today they admitted that indeed they’ve known about it since February,” he wrote in an email to the News-Miner. “I have pressed them for details on this since we first became aware of it, through an anonymous informant Saturday, March 31, and finally they confirmed just today that the incident occurred in (Game management unit) 13B.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers have determined that 10 wolves pictured in a pair of photographs currently being distributed to news media and on social media were harvested legally. Investigation has determined the animals were taken in Game Management Unit 13B and not in the Healy area as alleged. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has confirmed the wolf hides were properly received and sealed at a regional office.
“The wolves in the pictures were sealed as required by Alaska law,” said Bernard Chastain, Alaska Wildlife Troopers deputy director. “No illegal activity has been determined to have taken place at this time.”
An emergency order issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game last week closed wolf hunting and trapping in part of Game Management Unit 20C in the vicinity of the Stampede Trail. Wolf hunting closed at 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 2; trapping for wolves will close at 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 9.
The wolves pictured in the media campaign were harvested some 70 miles east of the park, not in the Stampede Trail area.
Reports regarding potential hunting and trapping violations can be made to the Alaska Fish & Wildlife Safeguard by calling 1-800-478-3377. Information about Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard can be found online at https://dps.alaska.gov/awt/safeguard.