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Slaughtering Wolves is Out of 'Control' in Alaska

March 20, 2006 | Wolves
By Bill Sherwonit, published in the Anchorage Daily News on March 18, 2006.

Effective protests are grounded in a refusal to accept what is normal. We accept a diminished world as normal... Why is this rage [against the loss of wildness] a silent rage, an impotent protest that doesn't extend beyond the confines of our private world? Why don't people speak out, why don't they do something?... What is unsettling is that we are all so apathetic."

-- Jack Turner, "The Abstract Wild"

I'm in the midst of re-reading Jack Turner's "The Abstract Wild," and once again I feel my body grow electric with passion. His love for wild creatures and places is my love. His angst is my angst. His desire to make a difference is mine. But what to do?

One reason Turner's words resonate so powerfully is my disgust with Alaska's ongoing -- and steadily expanding -- predator-control program. I almost wrote "wolf control," but our state's organized predator-extermination effort now includes bears. I wonder how many Alaskans know this. Or care.

A few weeks ago, I met with a couple of other Alaskans disgusted by our state's "intensive wildlife-management policy," which basically requires the killing of wolves and bears so that humans have more moose and caribou to hunt. Vic Van Ballenberghe, a widely respected wildlife scientist and former Board of Game member, lamented that any new effort to rally Alaskans in support of wolves and bears would be tremendously difficult.

People have grown numb, Vic said. They're burned out. Twice in recent years, Alaskan voters have loudly and clearly voiced their objection to large-scale, aerial wolf-kill programs. Yet here we are once more, with an even more egregious predator-control program, the worst in decades.

The latest effort to expand Alaska's predator kill-off is happening as I write these words, as the Board of Game -- which these days would more properly be called the Board of Game Farming -- meets in Fairbanks. I stayed away because attending would invite only heartache and anger, as board members play out their dishonest charade. The board is determined to shrink wolf and bear populations, and that's that.

The sad thing, as Vic points out, is that these wolf haters -- I'm convinced that's what they are -- can do whatever they want. They represent the views of Gov. Murkowski, who appointed them, and the Alaska Legislature's most powerful figures. No one in any sort of political leadership role has opposed them, which is depressing in itself. So it appears the only ones who can make a difference are we "commoners," we citizens.

For that reason I applaud anyone who has attended this month's Board of Game meeting and spoken for wolves and bears, or anyone who writes letters or makes calls denouncing current "management" strategies. Still, more is needed. There's the prospect of yet another citizen's initiative, which is hopeful. And we need to vote Murkowski and regressive legislators out of office.

I'm saddened that the loudest voice against Alaska's predator-control program has been raised by Priscilla Feral and her Connecticut group, Friends of Animals. Surely many Alaskans are just as outraged as she. Why are we largely silent? Why do we hide?

I think that one major reason predator-control opponents have been apathetic and indifferent of late is this: the despicable nature of the killing has been largely out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Citizen revolts are most likely when we can see or read first-hand accounts of atrocities; for instance, the media's coverage of physician-hunter Jack Frost and his "mechanical predation" of wolves in the 1980s, or biologist Gordon Haber's snared-wolf video in the nineties. The visceral impact was powerful and motivating.

How do we stir up anger and action today? It might help to start with language. "Control" is such a clean, antiseptic word. But when state policies call for eliminating 85 of 120 wolves -- to give one regional objective -- that's not control. That's a massacre, a slaughter. Board of Game members sometimes talk about the savagery of wolves. But who, really, are the savages here?

Bill Sherwonit is a nature writer who lives in Anchorage.

Comments

To Priscilla How can you "disagree" that moose numbers are low here i mean do you live here? hunt or enjoy the beautiful country here? i remember a couple years ago when we would rarely even see a moose around as i said before the wolf control is working and once the moose are stable again the wolf control will be stopped and life will be back as it was i know there will still be wolf hunting on snowmachines and everything but thats something that has alwas happened

Along with what BJ said I also feal that way, wolves in ALASKA are out of control, We live off of the meat we get from the moose, we do not kill the moose for sport like alot of people in the city's and states do, we do not find joy in picking up a gun walking out the dore and shooting something that may be eating our scarce supply of food for the winter, but we do as we must. ALOT of people may think, "Why not live off the things you can buy from the stores in towns" It is becuase we were raised this way and we will stay this way for a very very long time to come, If it meens controling a population of a preditore on our food source we will do just that. We do not "Go and murder wolves" We save our food supply from extinction, We do not kill wolves just to kill wolves, we kill them to keep us alive. I said what I had to say RANT AND FLAME ALL YOU LIKE!

Personally, I think that the killing of Wolves in Alaska is VERY wrong!!!!! Wolves are majestic, and very beautiful animals........ They dont deserve what is going on... The people who are hunting wolves need to stop it.... Just thinking about that happening makes me sad and hurt..... I just hope that this will stop real soon!!!! STOP KILLING WOLVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For BJ -- Friends of Animals has sponsored Dr. Gordon Haber's field research in Alaska, and we work with another moose biologist in our ongoing legal challenge. We know that the state's scientific data doesn't hold up. One just can't claim that moose and caribou numbers are very low, so aerial wolf massacres are needed and justified. A year ago, Dr. Haber reportered that a group of wolves he had studied in the Fortymile area had been decimated -- five were shot from the air including a radio-collared wolf. Others were found after 24 hours who had been wounded. There's evidence that the hunter-pilot teams are using radio tracking and assistance from the state to slaughter wolves, and the accompanying propaganda -- the state's thought control excuses all of the violence and suffering as a needed moose farming exercise. We find it obscene. The state's wolf control proponents actually want to kill predators -- there's no quality thinking, research or observations that validate it, and certainly, no ethics. Many Alaskans prefer a natural system without human intrusion and manipulations. Tourists don't travel to Alaska because they're indifferent to the violence that's intrinsic in the way wolves, bears and others are routinely treated by Gov. Murkowski's administration. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

Why do we still do this to animals? How would you feel if you were just walking along and then, BOOM!!!, you are lying there dead. There is absolutely no reason we should kill animals! Especially not wolves. They are one of the most majestic animals of alaska, and even other places! I love wolves... And not to mention all the animals were here first! We moved onto their territory! What gives us the right to kill them? You tell me!!!

Listening to the reasoning supporting the wolf hunt, it sounds very familiar to the seal clubbing in newfoundland. wolfs eat the moose, seals eat the fish, and this will not effect the population of either animal and so on. so it must be fair to say the supporters of the wolf hunt also support the seal clubbing. only difference is the seal fur is sold. nobody is trying to profit off the wolf. first off, i don't know why anybody would want to wear skin on top of his or her skin, thats just disgusting. i would not be caught dead wearing a fur.and when i see someone wearing a fur, it's hard to hold a straight face and avoid bursting out in laughter on how stupid they look. but that's for another day, what i am wondering is why no one from the dept. of game and fish,the governor or the 157 shooters (notice i didn't say hunters)came forward to defend there actions. most likely because the governor already committed political suicide by ignoring the people that put him in office, the dept of game know there history when he's gone. and the 157 shooters don't want their clients or coworkers to know because of criticism from coworkers and definitely they could loose the clients that they have. if your going to do something that the majority oppose, you should at least be man enough to stand up and defend your actions, instead of hiding in the shadows. this is only and admission to guilt and knowing that it's wrong. so stop having your supporters fight your battles,you may have misled them, but you didn't mislead the rest of us. and as far as the boycott is concerned. 'WHEN THE WEATHER'S FINE, YOU'LL SEE MY BEHIND HEADING SOUTH OF ALASKA'.

To Jeremy, I was reading what you wrote in the paragraph.I took myself out from the thoughts which can anger someone if they hear of some an animal being hurt or killed. Growing up in the largest city in the world (nyc) I can understand that you want to continue your way of life just the way it,s been.Althougt I don,t think your using your power efficently, Jeremy I have land in the catskill mnts. More and more people are coming up and they don,t care about any of these issues or ones like them. They are happy being out of the big city you should check statistics for population increases business in the u.s. is booming soon enough people will be in your backyard, like it or not. So jeremy if you live in a place of such beauty and history why not try to protect all of it.... I might be moving to alaska. I,m a dockbuilder working on some very large projects dams, bridges, bulkheads etc. So six (6) months a Year I will be visting places which interest me ALASKA WOW ... Jeremy contact me maybe between your brain and my brain we can keep this area beautiful for along time to come.Its sounds to me like you don,t hate wolves your doing what you were taught. But trust me if you don,t talk to people like Priscilla who is a link of things to come we will all lose in the end. Just as neigborhoods coastlines and countries(iraq) change. please contact me at captainruoff1@aol.com I am in avery large city with a very large voice I would even visit your area if asked. Priscilla please contact me if you read this

Exactley, I understand killing food, but people kill animals for game and for fur, witch is pretty much useless if you really think about it. It is also kinda gross, I mean, having animal skin on top of yours... Think about it! And also people kill wolves because they don't know the truth. Stories like The Three Little Pigs give little kids the wrong impression and they grow up to hate wolves. It's not right!

I DO live in Alaska and have for almost 30 years, so I can say that BJ and like-thinking folks are going to believe whatever is said that will justify their desire to see wolves killed. YES. All creatures in the wild are subjuect to cycles. It only takes one hard winter with deep snows to reduce moose populations more than any over population of wolves ever could. And there is NO over population of wolves. Even the board of Fish and Game cannot say they have proof of that one way or the other. I would like to say to all those that DEPEND on moose to eat, that I support your way of life. I would also tell them that if they want to see why moose populations might be low, (Again there is no real proof that the numbers are that low. There are over two hundred killed by cars in the Mat-Su every winter.) I would encourage them to go to the airport when hunting season opens up to see hundreds of "hunters" getting on and off airplanes. Or go stand by the highway and watch the hundreds of trucks going by with tens of thousands of dollars worth of hunting gear. Hunting for big game means big-money for some. And money, like so much in this world today, is all that its about. If moose hunting was only open to those that truly needed it for the next two years, we'd probably see way more moose than we want to. Killing wolves is not the answer. As a last note: Alaskans voted twice against wolf-killing programs. Fortunately, most Alaskans don't agree with Ed. Unfortunately, those in power and with money, do.

I completly understand those who must kill for food. What is unacceptable is when these wolves are made into designer coats and pelts. I don't understand why someone would want a dead animal draped across her shoulders! I am only 12 and most of the kids my age really don't care about wildlife. My friend has a bunny fur purse!! I think people should stop obsessing over possesions and get over it. The only problem is that we can talk about this all we want to, but I don't see anyone doing anything about it. GET INVOLVED!! Blog editors' note: It's possible for those of us in North America , especially, to feed ourselves well as vegetarians without killing animals. Moreover, no one in Alaska shoots wolves out of hunger. Wolves and other animals are shot due to a warped sense of sport, and because some people prone to violence think that dominating animals and others makes themselves feel adequate. The opposite is true. Wolf skins are sold for pricey garments, and as you say, Shelley, for foolish accessories. We're pleased your eyes and ears are open and that you're involved.

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