In My View
This August, Alaska residents will again have the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure which would make it difficult for the state to use hunter-pilot teams to kill wolves in a predator control scheme designed to make moose and caribou easier for two-legged hunters to catch. May this measure get a majority vote. In the past, Alaska residents have opposed the scheme in similar ballot measures.
The whole country, in fact, has expressed disapproval of such schemes and that’s why we have a federal Airborne Hunting Act.
The politicians and the animal-control officialdom of the 49 th state, however, seem to have endless time to work things out for the flying gunships.
The members and supporters of Friends of Animals have, for years, and often successfully, worked to obstruct the state's aerial wolf-killing forays. If the new ballot measure passes, we’ll be back to work, opposing the other ways in which the state accommodates the stalking and killing of free-living animals for whom the Alaskan tundra is home.
For them, no part of the state is a safe haven. This spring, the game board approved an aerial wolf-control scheme for a remote area of the Aleutian arc. In a plan of the kind that hasn’t been in operation since the mid-1980s, the board allowed state agents to shoot several dozen wolves from helicopters before the caribou birth season, which was in mid-May. The area attracts hunters from inside and outside the community who want to shoot caribou.
Some wolves inhabit the federal lands of Denali National Park, but aren’t afforded protection when they venture outside the park's boundaries.
The state's biologists -- people who advise the Board of Game and other bureaucrats on predator control -- go along with the arrogant notion that free-living animals are objects to control. When the board’s lingo contains phrases such as “harvesting” caribou, it’s not hard to imagine what happens to animals who get in the way of that harvesting.
Dr. Gordon Haber, whose field research in Alaska is in its 41 st year, reports that up to 19 of the Denali park's wolves may have been killed this winter in the northeast boundary area alone, which affects the integrity of five wolf families. This region is a wintering ground for sheep, moose and caribou.
Snaring goes on as well as shooting. As Mary Pemberton wrote on April 25, 2008 for the Associated Press: "Tourists taking in the beauty of Denali National Park and Preserve could be in for a truly ugly sight -- two wolves with tight snares around their necks."
The wolves, who escaped snares on state land outside the park, returned to Denali. Gordon Haber released photos of the swelling of their faces and necks from the snares that cut deep into their muscles. A Denali park biologist caught one wolf and removed the snare, but the second wolf has so far eluded capture and assistance.
As we’ve noted, Alaskans have voted (both in 1996 and 2000) to ban aerial gunning, yet the last two governors -- Republicans working in concert with state legislators -- have overturned the public's will and allowed the bureaucracy to be taken over by extremists -- people who want to keep an air force to annihilate wolves and other carnivorous animals across the state.
Since 2003, nearly 800 wolves have been killed across south-central and interior Alaska. At least 100 aerial hunters have been granted permits. Relying on snow cover to help them trace the moving wolves, they chase the animals to exhaustion and then shoot them. Typically, wolf skins are sold for fur coats. Shooters often pose for cheeky photos of themselves, holding the bloodied bodies of wolves.
There will come a day when a global outcry will end humanity’s terrible war on the planet’s free-living beings. Too many have been chased out of existence. We do not intend to let that happen to the remaining wolves, moose, caribou and other free-living animals of North America. But for now, each year, Alaska's Board of Game expands the wolf control areas, inflates population counts, fudges its scientific and cultural assertions about the need for wolf control, and approves new plans to kill.
Each step of the way, we’ll work to stop it. Please invest in our efforts. No work is more important.