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Wildlife: Denali wolf packs hammered by hunting

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Wolves draw tourists to Denali National Park.

Death of breeding wolves affects pack size and persistence

Staff Report

FRISCO — Following a steep drop in the Denali National Park wolf population, biologists have documented how the death of breeding wolves affects pack size and persistence. The number of wolves in the 6million acre park in Alaska dropped from 143 in the fall of 2007 to just 55 wolves in the spring of 2013, raising concerns about impacts to tourism.

Many visitors come to Denali with the expectation of seeing wolves, but a recent state decision to allow wolf hunting in area previously deemed a buffer zone has had a big impact on wolf numbers. According to the latest research, the death of a breeding wolf sometimes results in a wolfpack disbanding. Continue reading

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Dwindling Denali wolves raise tourism concerns

wolf population across the 6 million acre park and preserve declined from 143 in fall 2007 to just 55 in spring 2013

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS Photo / Nathan Kostegian.

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — An arbitrary decision by the Alaska Board of Game to allow wolf hunting and trapping near Denali National Park has cut the regional wolf population by nearly two-thirds and significantly reduced opportunities for park visitors to see wolves in the wild — one of the main reasons people go to Denali in the first place.

This year, fewer than 5 percent of park visitors were able to see wolves, down from about 45 percent back in 2000, according to National Park Service statistics obtained by a federal government watchdog group.

“This precipitous decline in wildlife viewing success appears to be unprecedented in the history of the national park system,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility board member. Continue reading

Summit Voice: Most-viewed and weekend headlines

Monthly weather stats, oil and gas drilling and global warming …

Mountain and environmental news from Summit Voice.

SUMMIT COUNTY — We slow down the flow of stories a bit on Summit Voice during the weekend, but we don’t stop altogether, so it’s always good to recap the weekend headlines, including last Friday’s late-breaking news that two of the biggest conservation groups in Colorado will merge to form a new organization, Conservation Colorado.

We also reported on the monthly and year-end weather stats (the water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30), and reported on Gov. Hickenlooper’s upcoming visit to Summit County.

Weekend headlines:

Travel: Denali National Park finalizes new roads plan

Traffic limits shift from seasonal to daily

Denali and Wonder Lake. Photo courtesy NPS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Motorized visitors to Denali National Park will be facing a new set of rules next summer, as the National Park Service has updated a road vehicle management plan that dates back to 1986 (with a 1997 amendment).

The big change is a switch from seasonal to daily limits for all vehicles, including buses, park service vehicles and contractors, traveling on the controlled portion of the park road. Under the new plan no more than 160 vehicles will be allowed beyond the Savage River Check Station each day. Previously, only buses had daily limits.

The plan incorporates an adaptive management strategy that involves regular monitoring to assess whether the plan meets park standards, including the quality of wildlife viewing, identified by guests a a major reason for visiting the park. The daily number of vehicles could be cut back even more based on the results of monitoring. Continue reading

Denali rangers continue to investigate fatal grizzly attack

The Tokat River, looking north toward the area where Richard White was killed by a grizzly. Photo by Kim Fenske.

Park Service confirms victim’s identity, find photos hiker took of the bear just before the attack

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Denali National Park has enacted an emergency closure in the area where a backcountry hiker was killed by a grizzly bear last week. The closure is indefinite, park officials said as they resumed their investigation into the first fatal mauling in the park’s history.

Most of the backcountry units that were closed as a result of the incident are now open. Unit 10, where the attack took place, will remain closed for the next few days for continued monitoring and investigation. The unit encompasses an area of almost 50 square miles.

Richard White, age 49 of San Diego, had been in the Denali backcountry for three nights when he was killed by the bear Aug. 24. He may have recently hiked in other areas of Alaska prior to coming to the park, but it is not known at this time if he had previous backcountry experience in Denali. Continue reading

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