Fate of Famous Alaskan Wolf Pack is Seriously Threatened

Although wolves are considered an endangered species throughout the United States, they number in the thousands in Alaska—where it remains legal to hunt them. April 30, 2005 marked the end of Alaska's most recent hunting season, but it did not come and go without a price. Three members of the famous Toklat wolf pack were killed.

This family of wolves residing in Alaska's Denali National Park is often touted as the most studied, viewed and photographed group of wolves in the world. The pack has been observed for more than six decades, providing scientists with a unique stream of longitudinal research and insight into the wolves' biology, mating habits and hunting techniques.

On April 17, a hunter shot and killed the Toklat pack's alpha male after the wolf ventured outside of the protected boundaries of the park. According to Dr. Gordon Haber, a biologist who has studied the Toklat family for over 40 years, the wolf was behaving erratically and wandered to an area just outside the park where two female members of the Toklat family had been killed in traps over the previous several weeks. One of the females was his mate. Now only six young Toklat wolves remain in the area, without an experienced alpha male or female to guide them.

While a 55-sq. mile buffer zone in the northeast corner of the park was established several years ago, this area needs to be expanded to protect ranging park wolves from hunters and trappers. However, the Alaska Board of Game has refused to expand the buffer zone, maintaining that wolves in Alaska are managed for population, not for their safety and livelihood.