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Killing of the Toklat Wolves Is All about Human Ethics

May 02, 2005 | Wolves

By Susan Russell, Friends of Animals
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Published: May 1, 2005)

Sunday, May 01, 2005 — The male and female pair of the most visible and scientifically important wolf family group in the world is now dead. Since February, the tragic and gratuitous destruction of the Toklat wolves has played out on a global stage, to the mounting horror of scientists, nongovernmental organizations and U.S. senators who repeatedly urged emergency trapping/hunting closure and a necessary long-term extension of the northeastern buffer. U.S. senators called the wolves "a national treasure."

The Daily News-Miner's anemic response: It's legal. (Whether the killing was in fact legal seems a topic for debate. Either way, it was depraved.) In a burst of high principles, the paper urges the Board of Game to "resist" national groups and Alaskans clamoring for a permanent buffer: "(it) seems that romance and postcard images have been given as much credibility as the judgment of wildlife managers," ("Beware the Howling," April 21, 2005).

We fear The News-Miner confuses "romance" with ethics. But first, a primer on U.S. wildlife policy and the objectivity of wildlife managers.

In the mid-1930s, firearms dealers (now, the euphemistic "Wildlife Management Institute," or WMI) designed state and federal wildlife laws to sustain gun sales and animal supply. Manufacturers remain the dominant players in national and state wildlife policy, working through a network of government and private agencies.

WMI, whose board consists entirely of firearms, equipment and ammo manufacturers, operates under "partnership agreements" with the Department of Interior and state agencies: "No other organization," the institute boasts, "has a greater hand in molding state, federal and provincial resource agencies, typically working away from the limelight to catalyze and facilitate strategies, actions and decisions."

Alaskans will be interested to learn that industry public perception management "units" poll-tested how best to market "predator control" for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: "Public (Alaska) acceptance of predator control has to be described as conditional. In only one of six situations did a majority of statewide respondents indicate support for lethal predator control — when predation reduces prey populations to the point that some local residents who rely on game for food are unable to find moose or caribou to hunt." That is, precisely, how wolf and bear killing is marketed.

The key to firearms dominance is government and industry control of excise funds distributed annually for wildlife-related research, surveys and land management.

The federal Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 dedicated revenues from excise taxes on arms and ammunition, later expanded to handguns, to "game" restoration, shooting ranges and hunter recruitment. Gross receipts for fiscal 2000 totaled $215 million.

The bill's backers (see WMI) included a proviso: Only states that dedicated hunting license fees strictly to hunting purposes were eligible for federal funds.

Consequently, regulatory state wildlife divisions are salaried by hunting and trapping license revenues, or a hunter-client base. State game or wildlife councils, quasi-legislative boards created to set hunting seasons and bag limits, are controlled by hunters. Industry control was, and remains, impenetrable.

The gun and fur trades profit from the violent deaths of millions of North American animals each year. In the 1930s, the trades defined an ethically impoverished "conservation" lexicon with an all-important aim to desensitize: "populations" versus individuals; "harvesting" versus killing; "crops" versus free-living animals. The American public can no longer allow these trades, or their surrogates, to define the terms and lurk behind a self-serving pretense of "conservation."

For some humans, fear, phobias, displaced aggression, domination, even hate, can all be focused on animals. The garden-variety bully —from playground to office to racist advocate— arises from a basic insecurity or impotency, a need to feel superior, a requisite for targeting someone perceived as not able to fight back. A wolf's ability to survive in the wild, and to defend itself, is superior to an unarmed human's.

The alpha breeding female, the black alpha wolf frantically searching for his lost mate, the pup dragging a trap by its leg, were a wildlife manager's worst nightmare: They were, before the world and above all else, individuals. The Toklat family group earned and had the world's respect. The Pennsylvania hunter who killed the beleaguered alpha wolf, with the aid of a guide, refuses to release his own name.

On a moral basis, Friends of Animals opposes the killing of any wolf. A sound, holistic environmental ethic embraces, and respects, all beings who share this planet.

Susan Russell is information director for Friends of Animals, based in Darien, Conn

Comments

If he feels he did the right thing, why isn't he willing to take the credit for his hunting prowess of shooting a radio-collared disoriented wolf from the road with a guide?

I have a hard time stopping myself from insulting the cowardly hunter here, and can therefore not really contribute. It's nauseating to think about it.

... He may just be one of those self-righteous, "I-have-the-money-so-I-can-shoot-what-I-want" idiots. We have a few of those in my neck of the woods. Case in point a hunter who says he grew up studying wolves, and admiring them. So why did he go to Canada and shoot one of the largest wolves in existence (that was also an Indian legend)? He had the money, got a guide, and wanted to take a trophy. ...I actually did work with and study wolves and their habitats, and if anyone took the time to do so, they would think twice before pulling the trigger on one. ...For more on wolves: www.wolfpeople.com

Human beings are the most destructive creatures on this planet. We do not destroy to survive but for the sheer pleasure of superiority. How sad for our children and their children for they will never know the simple beauty or awe at the magnificent presence of these and so many other amazing creatures. The magnitude of this type of animal genocide is enormous and will affect all living things in the future.

"The Pennsylvania hunter who killed the beleaguered alpha wolf, with the aid of a guide, refuses to release his own name." What a species. (This comment applies to humans, not to wolves).

People are so bombarded by the visuals of war and strife in the media and movies, as well as the drama in their own personal lives that maybe they can be numb to this story, but when I heard this morning on NPR the story of the killing of a black Alpha wolf from Denali Toklat pack [by a "fierce" hunter from the luxury of a roadside into the park—aka a legal shooting—for a pelt!], I was sickened. After losing his alpha female in February, the grieving black wolf appears to have committed "suicide by hunter." My rest of the day has been spent researching the wolves and the abysmal situation these creatures have under the auspices of protection. The various officials can try, but there are no justifications for any of this. It is the same reasoning used in "collateral damage" arguments in war. I feel grief and believe this is a further extension of the war of humans— and we will not realize until it is too late that the decimation of the earth whether through killing or pollution will ultimately be the end of humanity.

People have views of the wolf that go back thousands of years. It is time to change this often negative image of the wolf and break the cycle of myths and violence against this majestic animal. Predators are necessary to keep other smaller animals that are considered pests, in control. Without wolves a link is missing that keeps the environment in balance. It is time to break the cycle of violence.

I just think its funny that they're selling this stuff as a good thing for the people who rely on the wolves' prey for food. For some reason it didn't occur to them that they had all gotten along fine for the past thousands of years, without their hunting help, and that there was no reason for things not to continue as they were. Another obvious dilemma here is that if they do away with too many wolves, then there will be an overpopulation of the prey animals, which can be just as devastating as an underpopulation. Farmers (if there are any in alaska -- don't know much about the place) lose crops if they aren't properly protected from the herbivores, they have better chances of wandering into human communities (not their fault, but still something to think of), get in the way, etc. I know this sounds sort of slippery slope, but something similar is happening near me with deer. They have no natural predator anymore in this area, so they "get in the way", and to "cure" the problem some people decided to start shooting them. Needless to say, it hasn't helped. They're still "getting in the way" as much as ever. Then again, in my area its also a problem of habitat depletion. The only way they could be even close in their assumption that killing wolves helps humans who hunt their prey is if and, as far as I can tell, ONLY if they can prove that there is an OVERpopulation of wolves themselves. If there isn't a substantial overpopulation (which would fix itself ANYWAY simply by mother nature kicking in), then the prey animals NEVER were at threat to begin with. Just trying to find the fault in their argument. I'll stop ranting now...

i`m not surprised. People kill animals because they feel a sense of "power" because they themsleves feel weak and helpless. I`m sure dictators have the same feelings too. I`m completly disgusted by the lack of concern for the wolves,without this top predator their eco system would eventually collapse. these hunters should fess up, if their so fond of shooting radio collared wolves than their faces and names should be in the paper for all their little friends to see as well as recive charges from wildlife officers.

Why can we not shoot humans like we shoot animals? You cannot tell me the dumbass did not see the special tagging. I say boycott all Alaskan based products as much as possible especially tourism. [Blog editors' note: Of course the answer to that is that other animals are not considered persons with their own legal right to their lives. It will be a fine day when our society just stops shooting. Thank you for joining the boycott, James. We sincerely appreciate your dedication.]

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