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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Special Report: Alaska's Toklat Wolf Pack in Crisis

When senior editor Tracy Ross investigated Denali's wolf controversy, she expected to see a dead wolf--but not a skinned one. Go behind the scenes with video filmed in the field and an interview with Ross on the experience.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Denali wolves are in danger. (Julia Vandenoever)
Denali wolves are in danger. (Julia Vandenoever)

The wolf. No wild animal is more revered—and reviled—than this icon of American wilderness. And now the most important group of wolves in the country, Denali National Park’s Toklat pack, is caught in the crosshairs of these opposing passions. On one side: a hunter who once gleefully turned his gun on the pack’s alpha female. On the other: a biologist who might just hold the key to the Toklat’s protection. Read the feature story, then go behind the scenes of with a video filmed in the wild, and inside a Fairbanks tannery.

DOGS OF WAR
Another dead Denali wolf. A battle for the soul of wild Alaska. Our reporter visits America's most iconic wilderness for the inside story of a park under siege.

  VIDEO REPORT video icon
Dogs of War Part 1: The Harvest
Master hunting guide Coke Wallace lives to hunt wolves. As part of
BACKPACKER Senior Editor Tracy Ross' investigation into the battle between hunters and conservationists over the fate of Denali National Park's Toklat wolfpack, she follows Wallace into the Alaskan backcountry to learn how wolf hunters find, catch, and kill their prey.

video iconDogs of War Part 2:  Tracking the Toklat Pack
No one knows Denali's wolves better than wildlife scientist Gordon Haber. For over 43 years, he's dedicated his life to learning the behaviors of one single wolfpack. Ross joins Haber on a trip into the park to track down the threatened Toklat pack's den, where they hope to see wolves thriving in
their natural element.

video iconDogs of War Part 3: From Wild to Worn
VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED Alaska wolves are prized for their pelts, but there's more to it than that. Here, trapper and tanner Al Barrette shows Ross what happens to harvested wolves, and makes the case for continued hunting and trapping as just another form of sensible wildlife management.

photo icon EXCLUSIVE ONLINE AUTHOR INTERVIEW
The Alaska Wolf Debate: Q&A with Tracy Ross
In this online Q&A, BACKPACKER senior editor and Dogs of War author Tracy Ross recounts the challenges of interviewing the hunter and biologist at the heart of the fight.



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anima
Apr 14, 2011

that is not the the answer but is good to know it and thanPr

Nevi
Jun 18, 2010

Do they eat the wolves?

Roy
May 20, 2010

A wolf in the wild is like a cat in a barn how many mice do you see after the cat has been living in the barn for a while

Greg
Apr 29, 2010

Roy Wrote: "The wolves will keep killing and growing in numbers until all the prey is gone for their numbers move from prey type to prey type until we have no good numbers of anything but wolves."

This is just wrong. Everyone who has ever attended an elementary school science class knows that predator and prey populations keep each other in check. If the predator population kills off too many of the prey then the predators starve and die off.

I hardly think that animals in the wrong place and the wrong time accounts for a significant number of prey animals killed by wolves outside of elderly, sick, or wounded animals. Last time I checked it was humans and not wolves that use up all available resources until there is nothing left then move on to the next area.

rich
Apr 20, 2010

pretty pathetic rhetoric.... reads like kids at recess!!!!

Roy
Apr 10, 2010

Greg Wrote - Wolves don't overkill the caribou or elk populations, they thin the herds of the sick and old animals and actually improve the health of the whole herd. There is NO reason to hunt wolves for sport. It is not wildlife management that's a lie. If you actually had a clue about how nature works you'd know that everything has it's place and purpose. So tell me if it's so important we hunt wolves why have both the wolf and the caribou and elk populations been fine for hundreds of years before humans began intervening?

Well Greg and others I think you need to think about it a little more, Wolves most of the time kill and eat what they need at the time then move on when it is easy (to kill prey) if not they will come back and feed again but not always, sometimes they just kill for sport if this is not true why would there be over a 100 of the rancher's sheep killed in a night by wolves. When they kill they are looking for the best odds for a kill, weak, sick, old, lame, one that goes to wrong place at the wrong time of the prey that is what goes down. When there is a over balance of wolves to prey the prime animals are the only ones left, all the weak are gone. The wolves will keep killing and growing in numbers until all the prey is gone for their numbers move from prey type to prey type until we have no good numbers of anything but wolves. Elk have 1 calf a year, wolves have 4-5 young or more per year. They had no idea what the total numbers of each type of elk, deer, wolf, or any thing else back hundreds of years, The fish and game has to est. numbers as of now.

Joe
Mar 12, 2010

I think that the hunting of wolves is perfectly fine. Responsible hunters now a days are aware of the population numbers and I believe americans have the right.

Greg
Dec 23, 2009

Whoops did not mean to post that three times even though it is really important.

Greg
Dec 23, 2009

Wolves don't overkill the caribou or elk populations, they thin the herds of the sick and old animals and actually improve the health of the whole herd. There is NO reason to hunt wolves for sport. It is not wildlife management that's a lie. If you actually had a clue about how nature works you'd know that everything has it's place and purpose. So tell me if it's so important we hunt wolves why have both the wolf and the caribou and elk populations been fine for hundreds of years before humans began intervening?

Greg
Dec 23, 2009

Wolves don't overkill the caribou or elk populations, they thin the herds of the sick and old animals and actually improve the health of the whole herd. There is NO reason to hunt wolves for sport. It is not wildlife management that's a lie. If you actually had a clue about how nature works you'd know that everything has it's place and purpose. So tell me if it's so important we hunt wolves why have both the wolf and the caribou and elk populations been fine for hundreds of years before humans began intervening?

Greg
Dec 23, 2009

Wolves don't overkill the caribou or elk populations, they thin the herds of the sick and old animals and actually improve the health of the whole herd. There is NO reason to hunt wolves for sport. It is not wildlife management that's a lie. If you actually had a clue about how nature works you'd know that everything has it's place and purpose. So tell me if it's so important we hunt wolves why have both the wolf and the caribou and elk populations been fine for hundreds of years before humans began intervening?

John
Oct 19, 2009

Left-wing nutjob George wrote:

"Hard to believe that the country that elected Obama also contains backward cowards such as these.
Posted: Jan 02, 2009 George "

Well, George, I personally can't believe the country was stupid enough to elect Obama. I guess if it's socialism you want, you'll be happy.

Now, on to the facts about the wolf situation: The reason that Alaska's conservation people authorized the return of the hunting of the wolves is because they were wiping out the baby elk population.

The hunting is being used to keep things in balance.

Okay, you can now ignore what you just read and return to being the moron that you are.

Sincerely,

John
Biomedical Engineer

sh
Jul 03, 2009

i just love the " we;re smarter than you " attitude by some of you morons. you live in california and think you know everything. most of you would get lost if you wandered 20 feet from the interstate highway. stay out of alaska's business, get a hobby.

Brian
Jan 26, 2009

Isolation is a terrible thing. Alaskans believe that they are 19th century pioneers, trapping and hunting for a living, facing down the elements. Somebody please tell them that the other 49 states of this country have moved on - we have plentiful food, modern technology and clothing that doesn't need to be stolen from a wolf's back. Please airdrop some flyers letting them know that it is the 21st century now. If they run when they see the plane coming, let them know it is harmless - in fact, they can even get on one of these giant birds and come and join us if they wish!

Chad
Jan 26, 2009

Apparently, Alaskans do have running water and electricity, and one day the other benefits of modern civilization - such as education - will reach them. Until then they, and people from other poor parts of the world (Pakistan, Mexico and so on), will continue to engage in killing for fun, not food. They simply don't know any better, and have no other ways in which to amuse themselves. Eventually, as history has shown, civilization will get the better of them!

pete
Jan 20, 2009

save 100 elk, kill a wolf

Cindy Kreiman
Jan 19, 2009

We live in a time where people are overpopulating the earth. We condemn other living beings for being in our way, for living. We have no right to judge, condemn dominate or control and overpower any other life forms. Without us there is a balance in nature. We are the ones who cause the destruction that will one day come back to us. Our problem is, that we believe we are better than other living beings. How can you look at another being, with his eyes mirroring your soul and destroy that precious life that is here to teach and heal us? Mankinds humanity is inhumane....

ulogoni
Jan 16, 2009

NightFire speaks: "Anti-Hunters are so pathetic. Why don't you do real research on what happens when wildlife is not maintained by hunters. The ecosystem gets destroyed. The animals decimate their food supplies, the predators start attacking and killing your children, and they eventually starve to death or die a very slow and painful death because of some disease that came about from their over population."

I am not against subsistence hunting. I am against sports hunting. Now with that out of the way: You do realize that there were an estimated 2 million wolves roaming the lower 48 states before any eradication program took place? Before "management program" was even a whisper. Before any person wielding a firearm stepped foot on this land? Before any person entrenched in a domination minded culture ("It says so right here in this book!" Because it's so difficult to stretch a metaphor) let his or her voice loose on these winds? There was abundant, diverse life here. The bounty of which we can no longer see for ourselves. Lewis and Clark documented some of it on their travels west, you should check it out. You know, do a little research.

Nature is self regulating. It tends to run into trouble when people don't realize just what they're unravelling, however. Habitat degradation and loss, mountains living in mortal fear of their deer because many people don't understand the dynamics of the trophic cascade, the intricacies of predator-prey relationships. Wolves are cursorial predators. They keep the ungulates on their toes. Human hunters may bag numbers, but this isn't a numbers game. Humans who kill from a distance and don't keep their prey on the move can never replace wolves. Habitat degrades further in their absence as a result. Do some research. Look into the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction and their effect on elk behavior. How this saw a revival of the aspen and willow, which healed the eroded edges of a river, and in turn heralded the return of beavers and songbirds and a host of others. They enrich the habitat just by doing what they do, being what they are. This isn't romanticism. This is scientific fact.

Wolves eat what they can catch. They have their feet to get them there and their jaws to do the shearing, tearing, crushing. That's it. So they catch what they can catch. They don't want to wear themselves out. This is survival we are talking about, and to hunt in this way you must be fit. There is a lot of risk in hunting in this way. So wolves, just by being wolves, just by catching what is easiest to catch - the young, the old, the ill, the wounded - keep both predator and prey strong as a population.

Unlike, say, human hunters who "harvest" the mature, prime specimens of a herd. "The result is that the visible traits of some species are changing at three times their natural speed and they are becoming much smaller" The scrawny are left to breed.

NightFire speaks: "If you don't like hunting, don't do it, but don't be naive.

We are all involved in spilling blood. When we buy meat or any animal product, including leather shoes, we in effect pay others to do our bloodletting. Just contemplate the dismal lot of cows, calves and lambs that we breed and fatten only to herd to their deaths."

I am aware. It is contemplated. Are you using this to justify wolf killing? Because that doesn't make any sense. Yes, let's all jump up and go "bag" us some wolves so we can wear "garments" or line our pocket books! My boots are made out of a cow, after all!

NightFire speaks: "Vegetarians do not escape responsibility, either. To raise the crops they eat, we have to clear land. The clearing of land destroys the various species habitats. Deprived of a source of food, wild animals crowd out other animals, or suffer slow death by starvation. Then to harvest the vegetarians food, we poison, trap, shoot or drive off creatures that also need to feed on them.

Anyone who loves nature beyond the level of “Bambi” must recognize and accept its brutality along with its beauty."

And I assure you, more of them recognize this than you would give them credit for. Some of them are actively working to reduce their impact and even go to court to effect the legal system, so that the unnecessary slaughter and poisoning of wildlife, the degradation and fragmentation of habitat is recognized on a legal level and adjusted where possible.

NightFire speaks: "We do not promote such understanding – essential to saving our environment and its wildlife – by pretending that violent death is not part of nature, or that we human beings, in order to survive, do not play a part in that violence."

I think you've pegged the wrong people if you think they don't see humanity for the violent animal that it is. You can't save the environment and it's wildlife by killing wolves.

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