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Associated Press
Alaska Zoo officials are pitting a gray wolf and a polar bear in an election-fundraising ploy.

Zoo’s wolf-bear runoff a real dogfight

– You thought Barack and Mitt were fierce presidential candidates? Try Ahpun the polar bear and Denali the wolf.

The Alaska Zoo, in what it acknowledges is shameless promotion and fundraising ploy, is conducting an election between Ahpun the polar bear and Denali the gray wolf. The winner will claim zoo presidency, according to development director Eileen Floyd, who introduced the candidates Wednesday.

The election is about who will best represent the Alaska Zoo for the next four years, she said.

“I assure you this race is not about the color of their fur, their gender, or even a species issue,” Floyd said.

The early favorite would appear to be Ahpun, given her iconic status as monarch of the Arctic and the millions in free publicity from Coca-Cola commercials.

Ahpun has been at the zoo since she was three months old. She was found orphaned near Point Lay on the Chukchi Sea coast about 700 miles northwest of Anchorage.

She’s liable to receive the sympathy vote – polar bears in 2008 were added to the threatened species list because of climate warming and shrinking Arctic Ocean sea ice. Climate models considered by federal agencies indicate the species may disappear from U.S. waters this century.

Denali, on the other hand, is fighting stereotypes promoted by the likes of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.

But Denali is not without support. He’s head of his own Super Pack – several siblings brought to the zoo with him when they were orphaned near McGrath in interior Alaska about 275 miles southwest of Fairbanks.

Supporters will be able to buy the election. Ballots are $1. Floyd said money from outside interests is welcome.

The zoo election will follow the same timeline as the national race. Ballots for Ahpun and Denali can be cast until 8 p.m. Nov. 6.