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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

I saw the FRIENDS of ANIMALS full page ad in HARPER'S magazine for May that decried this slaughter. Unfortunately the ad ran in an issue that had two articles which were sympathetic to the eating of and production of animals for food. As a matter of fact the last line in A CARNIVORE'S CREDO stated: "Duty requires us, therefore, to eat our friends." Ironic isn't it? Rich.

Bob -"humans long ago exceeded the carrying capacity of Earth" I tend to agree in a PC sense. Obviously we have not, in a practical sense, since we have not yet suffered a permanent catastrophic decline (the Black Death and 'flu of 23' or whenever were merely temporary setbacks. Both my maternal grandparents and paternal grandmother died in that one, by the way. I strongly agree that our numbers are where they are at the expense of other species- which is exactly why we need to learn "management", so we can preserve species (including our own) under these circumstances, until we can get our own numbers under control. You perhaps have a suggestion for "curing" the world of our numbers???

Dear Blog Editor, Is there anything we can do to help? I mean all we are doing is talking about it, but we aren't doing anyhting about it! I mean sure, telling people to stop and not participating in such activities does sort of help, but it is not stopping the people that actually do it. I am only 11 and I already know how awful all this stuff is! [Blog editors' note: Thank you, Alexis, for standing up for wolves. By supporting Friends of Animals you're making our work possible. We're continuing to press for changes in Alaska -- through education, ad campaigns,field research, lawsuits, lobbying efforts, and other interventions.]

dear blog editor, thank you for letting me know this. I appreciate it.

My only comment is that people should think before they boycott anything, including tourism to Alaska, about all the potential ramificaitons of their actions. The fact of the matter is that many PEOPLE who live in Alaska depend on tourism to survive. A boycott against "the government" in Alaska for their objectionable practices is more likely to hurt the people who live in the state. While I agree that the practice is wrong, a better solution is needed than the suggested course of action in this case. [Blog editors' note: It's a matter of economics and politics in Alaska vs death for wolves -- trying to go about the business of living.

Not only did this make me cry, but it stung deeply because as a Pagan, I am deeply rooted in animal spiritualism. My mate is a gray wolf and it pains me that the lask of respect for Mother Nature is running so pampet these days. When our resources are depleated (speaking of fossil fuels) we will be forced to go back to a lifestyle that will include nature. Everyone will need a little "Laura Ingles" in them. I just hope that there will still be natures creatures to share this world with when that day comes. That day will come... L.J.

Obviously those of you who are against wolf hunting in Alaska have never visited an interior village in our state. There are no real grocery stores in a native village. People absolutely depend on moose and caribou for sustenance. In some areas, crops do not grow or the growing season is too short. People do wear fur not as an accessory, but as a necessity. There is NOTHING produced on earth that can fend off frost like wolf and wolverine fur. If you really think that ADF&G is fixing it's numbers and making up data, you are believing the wrong side. I live here, there are no moose where they used to be, but what do you see, wolves and bears. Soon enough, if we stop predator control, the wolves will overpopulate and overeat their habitat, resulting in a much more slower and painful death called starvation. I have personally flown with pilots who take our biologists to count moose. I asked them the same question you ask, are the moose numbers down as much as ADF&G says? The answer is simple, the pilot says, "what are easier to spot, a 1,500 pound moose or a 100 pound wolf?" "We see way more wolves than we do moose." Please do not buy into FoA plot to stop predator control. The people who hunt these moose and wolves do not take pleasure in killing these animals. Any self respecting hunter feels a touch of empathy when an animal falls. [Blog editors' note: We repeat, these wingnuts wouldn't know how to tell the truth if it jumped up and popped them in the heads. Thanks for sharing, Kusko.]

Here's what I don't understand. How is it that people on the "right" are always being told they need to be more open minded and not judge others? Kusko presented a very clearly thought out, and might I add first hand, view of the wolf control issues in Alaska and his views were completely dismissed without consideration and he himself was mocked. Now I'll paint myself with the same paint I used on you. You people make me sick with your patronizing, self centered rhetoric. This is pseudo-intellectualistic elitism at it's best. You sit around and pat yourselves on the back for being more thoughtful, more feeling, and flat out more intelligent than all of us poor neanderthals who beat animals to death with rocks. In fact, we are too stupid to realize that without smart people like you, we'd all be living in caves and communicating with grunts. The honest truth is that this issue is none of your business. You don't live in Alaska, and you don't have to deal with wolves. Why don't you spend your time trying to stop the indiscriminate killing of the brown recluse spider, a creature who's natural habitat has been cruelly eliminated. The one good thing I can say about your organization is that you at least are honest enough to post dissenting views, even if you do feel the need to belittle the posters.

Chris Newton's comment repeats the mantra from other wolf control proponets -- that Alaska's residents speak with one voice. How provincial. What Newton knows is that shooting wolves from aircraft to make moose hunting easier is contentious both inside and outside Alaska. This year's aerial wolf-killing ended April 30th, and we repeat: The state-sponsored violence shamed not only Alaska, but our country as a whole. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

Provincial? Seriously, I don't need any help making my point about your elitism. To address your comment however, I do not dispute the fact that this is a controversial issue even within the state of Alaska. My contention is that a group of people who are not involved in the issue are going to court to stop something that is none of their business. Also, tell me exactly how this is "shaming our country?" People all over the world kill animals. Shocking, I know.

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