The Reality of Wolf Closures in Alaska

Wolf hunting closures in Alaska.

An often heard complaint against closures to the killing of wolves by those who dislike the idea of national park lands in Alaska goes something like this: “Isn’t 6 million acres enough?”


This comment refers erroneously to Denali National Park and Preseve as closed to wolf hunting, though 4 million acres of new park and preserve are not actually closed.


Our answer to such a question, in this example the Denali closure, is: “Isn’t 350 million acres enough for you?”

Here’s why: most of Alaska’s public federal and state lands, 350 million acres, is actually open to the killing of wolves by hunting and trapping. Seasons and bag limits are set by the State of Alaska, if they even exist (bag and seasonal limits are flagrantly liberal and in some areas are purposely non existent, likely to maximize the killing of wolves). Regulations are set for state and federal lands by the state’s Alaska Board of Game.


The reality is that in Alaska, about 96.6% (or 350 million acres) is open to killing wolves.  Relatively little of it is closed, including some municipalities, the state’s only closure, the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and pre ANILCA national Parks, (e.g.: Denali, Glacier Bay and Katmai). That is 2.4% of Alaska’s, or about 10 million acres. Keep in mind Alaska is a huge expanse more than twice the size of Texas.

See the map provided by the Alaska Dept. Of Fish & Game.


Alaska’s Wildlife Heroes: Dr. Vic Van Ballenberghe.

This is a tribute to celebrated career Alaska wildlife biologist Dr. Vic Van Ballenberghe, who’s story is featured in the current, July/August 2019 Alaska Magazine: “For the Love of Moose; a biologist’s life in Alaska.” pp 40 and 41.

Vic’s professional life as a moose specialist has also seen significant research devoted to the necessary role of wolves as apex predators. Vic has been in the forefront of integrating behavior and ecology among a field of biologists who typically focus on numbers, with seeming little interest in wildlife behavioral and social patterns such as that of wolf families.

Vic, in his retirement, is a very outspoken published critic over the resulting  demise of Alaska wildlife policy.

Alaska wildlife is currently under severe strain, with state management policy geared almost exclusively to the sport and trophy hunting interests of the minority of Alaska’s public, while continually ignoring the 85% or so of the population who do not possess hunting or trapping licenses.

Many of the dispossessed majority have for years submitted non consumptive proposals to the Alaska Board of Game of seven hunters and trappers, only to have them turned down by this quasi legislative board.

Vic scorns Alaska’s Intensive Management policy, which promotes predator slaughter to maximize ungulate harvest, establishes non-existing limits on hunting regulations for wolves, and works to remove prior airborne hunting restrictions involved in killing of bears. 

He writes passionately and is highly critical of predator control policy for publication in the Anchorage Daily News and other, professional media and contributes to wildlife forums.

Vic has served on an earlier, profoundly different Alaska Board of Game, having been  appointed to three terms by two Governors. He writes that a responsible board would in those days have never promulgated nor tolerated the reckless policies that present boards promote and to which Alaska wildlife policy has been allowed to sink in a seeming race to the bottom.

Check out Alaska Magazine’s tribute to our Alaska’s Wildlife Hero, Vic Van Ballenberghe written by Emily Mount in the July/August issue.