Get ready for the onslaught, for as sure as the geese will be returning to Creamer's Field, the animal rights crowd will be rising in fury with the latest legal killing of a wolf from the Toklat pack of Denali National Park and Preserve.
What these groups fail to recognize, though, is that the park's wildlife managers take a broader view and are therefore more interested in the overall health of the park's entire wolf population. In that light, the Denali wolf population is reported to be at a satisfactory number, though managers say the number is on the low end of the preferred range.
In the continuing debate over the Toklat wolves, among the park's most visible, it seems that romance and postcard images have been given as much credibility as the judgment of wildlife managers.
That's just plain cockeyed.
But that won't matter to those who are already reacting to Sunday's killing of the Toklat pack's alpha male, which brings to three the number of Toklat wolves, including the pack's alpha female, killed in the past two months. In each case, the wolf was legally taken outside a buffer zone of about 55 square miles created in 2000 and adjacent to but outside Denali National Park.
The fact that the wolves were taken in compliance with the law and that the park has ample wolves will likewise be ignored by those who will eventually seek to expand the zone of protection--which could just as well be described as a zone of prohibition on hunters and trappers who desire to make legitimate use of a natural resource.
Looking back, it surely would have been better if the Alaska Board of Game had heeded the advice of its advisory committees and rejected renewal of the buffer zone when it had the chance last year.
The board's renewal decision, made in March 2004, wasn't based on a proven biological or scientific need for a buffer zone. Rather, the renewal was an admitted publicity move designed to mollify animal rights supporters and thereby make wolf killing in other areas of the state more palatable as part of predator-control efforts.
Now the Board of Game finds itself in an awkward spot. It will at some point, despite a multi-year moratorium on buffer zone proposals, be asked to expand the zone since the present one is obviously inadequate to accomplish what the "Save All The Wolves At Any Cost" people want, yet many on the board have expressed a dislike for the whole idea. But for a majority of the board to act true to its previously stated beliefs and eliminate the buffer zone would cause even greater publicity problems given the latest wolf killings.
If a request does come to expand the buffer zone, the Board of Game should just say no--recognizing that any decision it makes will be greeted with complaint by someone.