ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The gray wolf is making a comeback in parts of Montana, Idaho and Washington and is poised for possible reintroduction at Yellowstone National Park. But in Alaska, a debate over "wolf control" is heating up again.
In most states, the wolf is classified as endangered; in Minnesota it is threatened. In Alaska--the only state that allows sport hunting of wolves--a healthy population estimated at about 7,000 roams across thousands of square miles. Wolf hunting is a way of life for many.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 29, 1992 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 10 Column 2 Real Estate Desk 2 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
No interest--An article in the March 22 Real Estate section on apartment hunting erroneously reported that owners of rent-controlled apartments in Los Angeles are required to pay 5% interest on tenant deposits. The City Council passed an interest-on-deposits law in 1990 but it was ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge. The city has appealed the decision.
About 1,000 are killed for marketable furs or trophy pelts each year.
Legal battles and an outcry by environmentalists, wolf preservation advocates and others in recent years has made wolf control the most controversial wildlife issue in the state.
Now, after a year of trying to reach consensus among preservationists, biologists, hunters and trappers, the Alaska Fish and Game Department is proposing a number of wolf-management alternatives for Alaska's most populated and popular wolf hunting areas.
But critics say the process is too rushed, and both sides fear that greater conflicts over wolf hunting are yet to come.
"It gets more difficult as soon as you begin drawing lines on a map," said Bruce Bartley, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game wildlife conservation section.
Some zones would fully protect wolves; others would allow them to be intensively hunted through aerial hunting.
Fish and Game officials are basing the alternatives on public recommendations gathered in workshops and hearings around the state last year.
"As a result of this planning process, there are going to be more areas in Alaska where wolves are protected," Bartley said. "By the same token, there are going to be more areas in Alaska where wolves are going to be intensively managed. You can read that 'killed' if you want."
Despite the concerns that the process is moving along too quickly, the game board plans to approve wolf hunting zones and plans this year, Bartley said.
Already the alternatives are drawing fire.
"There are a lot of people concerned with the speed with which this thing is going. I see a real rush to get these area-specific plans approved by the (game) board this spring," said Layne Adams, a National Park Service wildlife research biologist in Anchorage, and a wolf expert.
Russell Galipeau, chief of resources management for the park service at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve--where wolf hunting occurs regularly--agrees.
National Park Service officials are trying to influence wolf planning rules on large areas of state-managed land adjacent to federal park and preserve boundaries.
Wrangell-St. Elias officials allow subsistence hunting by rural residents inside the park's core. In the larger preserve area, sport hunters may take wolves under seasons and bag limit restrictions.
The 13.2 million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve surrounds land owned by Ahtna Natives and other private owners. The park service wants all park and preserve lands zoned to protect wolves.
Wolves regularly range in and out of the parks and preserves, Galipeau said. "We've got to protect what we feel to be park resources. It's real important how we draw those lines."
A similar situation exists at Denali National Park and Preserve--the home of Mt. McKinley. The core park section at Denali does not allow hunting. Federal officials want to protect wolf packs that range to the east of Denali, including into an area where sport hunters shoot and trap wolves.