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Fauna Series No. 5








Dall Sheep



Grizzly Bear

Red Fox

Golden Eagle



Fauna of the National Parks — No. 5
The Wolves of Mount McKinley
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IN RECENT YEARS there has been widespread concern over the increase of wolves and coyotes in Alaska. Special efforts have been made to control the wolf, especially in areas occupied by domestic reindeer, and there has been some apprehension concerning the welfare of the big game herds elsewhere in Alaska. Since Mount McKinley National Park lies in the heart of the Alaska wolf range and carries its proportionate quota of the general wolf population, park administrators were uncertain as to what should be the policy toward the wolves in this particular area. What, for instance, is the total effect of the wolf preying on the big game species in this national park? What is the relationship between the wolves of the park and the general wolf population of Alaska? How do such predators as the golden eagle, fox, grizzly bear, and lynx affect the hoofed animals, and how does the wolf affect these predators? In short, what is the ecological picture centering about the wolf of Mount McKinley National Park?

In one form or another wolves have been found throughout the Old and New Worlds. In North America they ranged from the Arctic regions to Mexico. In the time of Lewis and Clark wolves were abundant all through the western United States. But the wolf is a powerful animal, and a cunning one, and unfortunately has run counter to the economic interests of man in settled regions. The war against the wolf on our western plains, when cattle replaced the buffalo and the wolf became a serious menace to the livestock industry, is an interesting phase of early western history. It was, of course, necessary that the wolf should go from those regions.

Aside from economic necessities, however, many persons wish to retain the wolf somewhere in the North American fauna, perhaps in the more remote parts of the continent in wilderness areas where there will not be interference from economic interests.

In the December 1942 issue of American Forests, Stanley P. Young has expressed the heartfelt wish of naturalists numerous outdoors men, and other interested persons throughout the land when he concludes:

Where not in conflict with human interests, wolves may well be left alone. They form one of the most interesting groups of all mammals, and should he permitted to have a place in North American fauna.

Fortunately, wolves still exist in many areas where there is no conflict with human interests. Such areas, it is believed, will perpetuate the existence of these interesting mammals, unless they are crowded out by further development. This will not be for a long time to come, if ever.

Many feel that our national parks and monuments are fitting places for just such a purpose. Congress has set aside these areas to preserve, among other things, the native fauna. Mount McKinley National Park is the only national park in which wolves occur in numbers.

It is not always possible to maintain the primitive picture without some human interference, since man's activities impinge upon the animal life even in such reservations. For instance, it has been found necessary to control the size of the Yellowstone elk herds, which had come to exceed the carrying capacity of their environment.

The question persisted—Is it feasible to permit moderate representation of the wolf in the fauna of Mount McKinley National Park? There is a wise provision of long standing in the policy of the National Park Service that no disturbance of the fauna of any given national park shall be made until a proper scientific appraisal of the question has been made. It was my good fortune to be given the assignment to study the wolves of Mount McKinley National Park.


October 4, 1942.

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