The East Fork wolf pack in Alaska, that has been studied since the 1930s, is thought to have died out after wildlife officials failed to find any recent signs of the animals. Earlier this year, there was thought to only be a male, female and two pups left.
Wildlife biologist with the Denali National Park Service, Bridget Borg, told Alaska Public Media that three of the four radio-collared wolves had died being hunted by humans in the last year – including the animal thought to be the last male, who was found dead near a hunting camp in May.
Recent investigation of the pack's den found plants growing around the entrance. Borg told the media organisation: "There was clear evidence it was not being used as evidenced by vegetation that was growing around the entrance to the den site."
On their Facebook page, activist group Alaskans for Wildlife called the news "scandalous", saying: "Shame on you, Board of Game, for letting this happen!" A petition to halt the killing of wolves in Denali National Park and create a "no-kill buffer along the park boundary" has gathered over 300,000 signatures.
The petition claims that half of all visitors to the park used to be able to catch sight of wolves but now that number is around six percent. It's thought that only around 50 wolves now survive in the park.
A new rule from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, set to go into force at the beginning of September, says that hunting for "predator control" will no longer be allowed on all National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. They said this decision "is based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern."
Though the Guardian reports that the Alaskan wildlife authority said the ruling would "override the state's sovereign authority". Wildlife Conservation Department director, Bruce Dale, told the paper the ruling was "continued erosion of the state's authority to manage fish and wildlife for the benefit of Alaskans."
The state allows the hunting of predators in hopes of increasing the numbers of their prey. "Moose, caribou, deer are important sources of natural food and food security for many Alaskans and cornerstones of the subsistence way of life," said Dale.