The Wolf. One of the most fascinating, intelligent and efficient predators on the planet. In the natural world, very little is more impressive than the power and the strength of an effective wolf pack. However, such a dominant predator is likely to ruffle a few feathers when it comes to a certain other species on this planet. The human. Man and wolf. The relationship that exists between these two giants has long been strained, with hunting playing a large part in the tension. The difficulties of such a relationship has recently been reinforced, with the news that the world’s longest-studied wolf pack may no longer be in existence.
The East Fork wolf pack exists (or did) in Alaska, near Denali, North America’s tallest mountain. The pack, which was first studied in the 1930s, has provided many scientific insights, with a lot of what we know about the behaviour and ecology of the wolf coming from this very pack. However, due to the persistent and aggressive hunting of many predators such as the wolf and bear in Alaska, the pack was reduced to only one female, a male and two pups at the beginning of 2016. Since then, the body of the remaining male, who was radio tagged, has been found at a hunting camp, whilst the female and her pups have seemingly disappeared, with wildlife experts fearing the worst. Wolf den sites have since been found and investigated in the territory of the East Fork pack, but biologists are claiming these sites are unused and have been for some time.
The area where the wolf pack previously roamed is also America’s largest National Park and the loss of the East Fork wolf pack will likely highlight the controversy surrounding the intensive hunting that takes place in Alaska. Since the news of the possible loss of the pack, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has stated there will now be no predator control in Alaska’s National Parks, unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ should present themselves. The hunting activities that have previously been allowed in the park include many controversial activities, such as the hunting of bear cubs and their mothers, bear baiting and shooting of animals from helicopters and planes. All of these activities will now be banned. In the past, the ‘intensive management’ of large predators such as wolves and bears has been apparently directed toward one thing. Increasing the numbers of moose and caribou. What for? For hunters. Of course. Makes sense….I’m starting to consider management as something of a cover word for ‘do what you want.’ Anyway, enough of my opinions! However, the argument that the control of these predators boosts caribou and moose numbers has been questioned by conservationists, who state there is little evidence to support such a claim.
The FWS has stated that public land in Alaska is not ‘a game farm’ for hunters and has accused ‘special interest groups’ of trying to undermine the protection of predators. Unfortunately, following the ruling by the FWS, Don Young, the Alaska Republican Congressman, has claimed he will do all he can to reject the FWS rulings, which he claims are against the law. He has said that both caribou and moose are important sources of food in Alaska and restricting the hunting of their predators is not in the interest of the Alaskan people. However, the new ruling by the FWS does not apply to the subsistence hunting of predators by indigenous people. So, what does it all boil down to? That the intensive management of predators, including the hunting of mothers and cubs and the eradication of entire wolf packs, is acceptable, whilst any attempts to protect these species are apparently ‘against the law’.
Once again wildlife and the natural world finds itself very decidedly on the back foot.
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