Modern Wolf Fable
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
August 26, 2016
A speculative yet highly cited article in the Washington Post entitled "Storied Alaska wolf pack beloved for decades has vanished, thanks to hunting" opined that the East Fork wolf pack roaming Denali National Park since the days of Adolph Murie has vanished due to hunting. See links below to read the article.
The piece assumes that the members of the pack transition from one generation to the next, serving as a genetic link through the decades. But that's not a realistic assumption. For those familiar with wolves in Wyoming, we know that on occasion, all wolves from a pack will have been eliminated, only to have a new pack move into the area and are once again given the same pack name, often based on a geographic location. That's the case with Denali's East Fork pack.
Dick Bishop, a retired Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist has written a rebuttal of the current storyline in the Alaska NewsMiner. (Link below).
Bishop points to research indicating the high rate of exchange among Alaska wolf packs, and the low rate of human-caused wolf mortality. He also notes that Denali's caribou herd has experienced a drastic population decline. The herd numbered more than 20,000 during the 1920s and 1930s, declining to just 1,000 animals by the 1970s. Predation on young calves was thought to be the primary reason for the decline. The herd has recently increased to about 2,500-2,800 animals.
One last overlooked point to the East Fork wolf pack story is that the National Park Service has been unable to locate the remaining female wolf and her two pups in their July check. Perhaps they will be located at a later date, founding a new East Fork pack.
Check out all the links below for details on this overall story.