Darien, Conn. "“ Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral today denounced the Alaska Board of Game's recent approval of aerial wolf control for the first time since the mid-1980s.
Feral stated, "Alaskans have allowed their bureaucracy to be taken over by extremists -- people who want to keep an air force to annihilate wolves and other natural predators. Alaska's bloody spectacles are a blight on the continent."
The game board plans to have state agents shooting wolves from helicopters before the caribou birth season in mid-May. The target area includes a handful of tiny villages (total population about 3,145) in the southern peninsula. This remote area in the Aleutian arc is also home to some 600 caribou, who may be hunted by wolves or bears, and whose newborns are sometimes eaten by eagles.
The justification for targeting the area's few dozen wolves? To give human hunters inside and outside the community a steady number of caribou to shoot.
Despite the obvious reality that hunting itself depletes the caribou population, that's what the state promotes.*
Rather than consider caribou conscious beings, the Board wishes to deem them the equivalents of vegetables. Referring to a two-year absence of caribou births, Cathie Harms, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) complained to the Anchorage Daily News, "We've already lost two cow crops."
Priscilla Feral, whose advocacy group has sponsored wolf research in Alaska for 15 years, has successfully intervened in past killing plans. The group's latest challenge to Alaska's wolf control, in November 2006, awaits a judge's ruling.
Dr. Gordon C. Haber, an Alaska-based scientist, notes that predation of caribou by other animals typically regulates itself whenever numbers of caribou drop.
Haber stresses that shooting would neither address any biological emergencies nor achieve anything necessary for human survival. Targeting one group of natural predators would tend to generate more predation by others, Haber said.
Priscilla Feral observed, "The area's human residents have access to grains, vegetables and other food. And tourists who show up to stalk Alaska's animals can stay in a lodge on the Peninsula, even in the remote Bristol Bay area, and read a menu like that found in hotels anywhere. Wolves are eking out a living here and ought to be allowed to do that."
Feral said ecological science shows it's unnatural to expect large groups of caribou to stay in one spot. Caribou naturally move when grasses and other foods are scarce.
"The state's mean-spirited and deeply unpopular wolf-shooting forays must stop," Feral said.
"We call upon Alaskans to raise their collective voice now against the game board's latest chest-beating display of authority over animal life."
* Since the early 1980s, at least one technical report prepared for the Alaska Board of Game states the caribou in the Alaska Peninsula declined due to shooting by hunters as well as low births linked to poor range conditions and predation. See James A. Fall, et al., "Subsistence Use of the Southern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd." Technical Paper #191 for the Division of Subsistence of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game (1990).