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Aerial wolf control effort begins

December 14, 2005 | Wolves
by TIM MOWRY, published in Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Despite howls of protest from Outside animal-rights groups and a grass-roots campaign to outlaw same-day airborne hunting of wolves, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is going ahead with its controversial effort to produce more moose and caribou for hunters.

The state would like 400 wolves killed this winter, the third year in a row that hunters armed with special permits can shoot wolves from the air or land.

So far, only six wolves have been killed this winter in areas targeted for lethal wolf control, but that number will climb as more pilots take to the air and the amount of daylight and snow increases to make tracking wolves easier, Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said.

The state recently issued more than 100 permits to pilots who applied to participate in the program. Pilots, most of whom have "gunners" flying with them, must be approved by the state.

Alaska is home to the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the United States. State biologists estimate some 7,000 to 11,000 wolves roam the state.

More than 400 wolves have been killed since the state began issuing permits to aerial shooters two years ago to reduce wolf populations in specific "intensive management" areas, including a reported harvest of 277 wolves last year...

Priscilla Feral, executive director of Friends of Animals, the animal-rights organization based in Darien, Conn., that has protested Alaska's predator control program by promoting a tourism boycott, is still fighting to stop the state from killing wolves.

While the group is not organizing the "howl-ins" the way it has the past two years, Feral said the group has a suit pending against the state to get the program stopped based on lack of information.

"We're hoping to have the program declared illegal and halted," Feral said. "We're just waiting to hear the judge's ruling to see whether or not we have a trial. We really think this is going to be decided in court."

There's a chance it could be decided by Alaska voters at the ballot box, too.

To read the full article, click here.

Comments

I have some purely philosophical/theological questions for all of you that say that by killing an animal I`m killing a part of myself. If God or Mother Nature put us and the animals here on earth together to live in peace then why did he/she give us the choice to eat meat or other food and not the wolves? Why did he/she bestow this choice upon us and not them? Maybe we have this choice because it was a mistake, maybe we only think we have a choice, who really knows. For the God people out there, if you believe that god is guiding you in everything you do and that you are here for a purpose then why isn't he guiding me and the rest of the hunters? Did he just forget we were out there and he doesn't affect us like he does you? If you say that God or Mother Nature has been taking care of things for millions of years, since before humans were hunting then why do species die out from causes other than humans. If he/she is taking care of things how do you know by us hunting the animals we are not doing his/her will. Maybe its time for the wolf to die out, like it was time for the dinosaurs when they disappeared. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't want wolves to die out, I think that they are majestic creatures, but so are dung beetles in their own way. If you say we have the choice to leave our homes, then so do the wolves. If we can leave and adapt then so can wolves, especially if God/Mother Nature is taking care of things. If they can't then maybe their time on this planet is up. Again, don't take that to mean that I want them to be gone, because I don't. I also want to know why everyone thinks its ok to eat plants, are they not just as alive as us? How in the hell do you know that plants aren't just as sentient as us or wolves. They have been around longest. Why don't you complain about people using bug spray or fumigating their home, which kills tons more bugs than wolves are being killed in Alaska? Why don't you complain about the millions of acres of farmland that is used to grow and then kill all those plants that everyone eats? Now for all of you that say we should stop killing animals and just eat vegetables and such and that we are biologically able to only eat that type of food. How do you know that the Alaskan Natives can, they have been living their way for thousands of years, if you just took all their meat away how do you know it wouldn't wipe most of them out. If a wolf has no choice to eat meat biologically, then what if some humans are the same way. I've personally tried to be a vegetarian and my biology wouldn't have it. For the 9 months I tried I was always sick and without energy and my body was weaker for it. My body couldn't handle it, it needs the meat, its protein and fat and all the other good stuff in it. Sorry this was so long; I just had a few questions and might have gotten off track, thanks for letting me post them. Like Jack Tims wrote this is purely a debate, you don't believe in killing wolves and in some instances Alaska and some Alaskans do. Neither side is right nor wrong at the moment (even though each thinks they are), only history will tell. Until then let the debate go on.

Mike poses some questions on religion and ethical ideas as they relate to vegetarianism. I'll offer some background. Respect for the lives of other conscious individuals, as well as respect for one's own body, grounds the theory and practice of nonviolence. Vegetarian ethicists and ecologists note that vegetarianism relies on agricultural practices that have a comparatively low impact on the global ecology and are compatible with traditional farming and culinary traditions. Many spiritual traditions teach respect for conscious life. Jews and Christians may refer to the Garden of Eden diet, based on herb-yielding seed and trees with seed-yielding fruit. Many commentators see later biblical allowances to consume animal flesh as concessions to human weakness. So Seventh-day Adventists have encouraged vegetarianism, and Jewish vegetarians observe that historical prescriptions for the eating of meat are not applicable today, as current science shows that animal products are unnecessary for health. Hindus avoid consuming anything gained through an animal's suffering, such as meat, eggs, and animal by-products. Traditional Jains will additionally avoid subtler disturbances of life -- forgoing potatoes, for example, so as not to disturb insects. Followers of other spiritual traditions may see vegetarianism as the ideal. The Buddhist precept against killing is often taken as indicating that Buddhists should embrace vegetarianism, and Buddhist restaurants featuring the recipes first thought up by the monks are very popular, opening in new places every year. Before Christianity, Greek philosopher Pythagoras taught that as long as humans continued destroying other animals they would know neither health nor peace. Members of the Bible Christian Church agreed, and established nineteenth-century British and U.S. vegetarian societies as part of the idea of kinship of all conscious life. Mahatma Gandhi, very well known for developing methods of peaceful change, gave talks for the London Vegetarian Society. Like the idea of world peace generally, one might connect the diet with sprituality, or simply strive to avoid the slaughter and consumption of other conscious beings. Some vegetarians accept animal rights theory, which rules out the making of animals into acticles of trade -- yes, dung beetles included. Others avoid animal products because their study of animal welfare (normally defined as the avoidance of unnecessary suffering) leads them to reject the idea that humans can consume animal products without inflicting suffering, and because consuming them is unnecessary. Thus, as most people can avoid animal products, ethical vegetarians believe that killing animals (except in cases of true euthanasia) should be ruled out. Conscious beings strive to protect and sustain their lives. They try to get away from dangers. Their demonstrated, conscious interest in living is the critical point for ethical vegetarians. Other morally significant factors include the animals' relationships with one another; their experiences of fear and pain when they are separated from one another, moved, or killed; and, most basic of all, the interests of animals to live free of domestication. Human rights are important to ethical vegetarians: Homo sapiens are part of the conscious, living world. Noting the high proportion of grain protein eaten directly in comparatively less affluent societies, Frances Moore Lappe famously suggested that for each average eight-ounce steak -- with all the grain and energy costs it represents in total -- we could fill the plates of forty-five people eating grains. Wolves are carnivorous animals, and they do need to hunt for food; Homo sapiens, on the contrary, do indeed have a longer history of being the huntees than the hunters. Best wishes, Lee Hall, Friends of Animals.

Lee, The information you provided was very enlightening. I might not agree with all of it, but it was very informative and I thank you for it. Much thanks.

Ok one last entry and then I'll be quiet for a while. I realized that I have never explained my actual position on the core issue of this blog - game management through predator control. Caribou populations are far too complex to discuss in a blog format. The only thing we understand is that the are naturally cyclical and they do respond to both overhunting (i.e. Nelchina herd) and intensive management and prdator control(i.e. Forty Mile herd). So let's look at moose. My personal feeling is that much of the moose population is habitat-controlled. The key is browse and you only get high quality moose browse in disturbed areas. The way you disturb large areas of the Alaska bush is through wildfires. Now here's the problem - remember how i was discussing the lack of cash in bush communities? One source of cash is summer fire fighting work. Because this is a source of money (and admittedly, people's houses are at risk too), there is tremendous pressure to aggressively fight any fire that comes anywhere near a village. The fires are put out, everyone high fives and a big mature, sterile forest is allowed to stay static. Forests do not support the moose populations that willow thickets do. The predators are a constant - they then hit the remaining, lower density moose population harder than ever. Eventually, they will eat an area out, the pup count will drop or the wolves will starve and die. Moose will come back and, if we really let a good fire rip through the area, will come back in big numbers. This is what has happened in the Tanana flats near Fairbanks. This area, thanks to some wildfires, now supports some of the largest moose densities in the world. Hunters take hundreds and hundreds of moose out of this area that is only a few miles from the second largest city in Alaska. However, we are not willing to wait 25 years for this cycle to take place. We are also not willing to jumpstart it with a good fire. So, we take the third best alternative and engage in predator control. Yes it works but it seems to me to be an unnecessarily artifical approach to the problem. I would support some wildfires near villages, either waiting for lightning to cause them or setting them ourselves. We then would have denser moose populations closer to villages where people could have a very good chance. I realize that FOA would prefer an Alaska where we all are vegans and there is no hunting but that isn't going to happen. As I've said above, the economics don't work and subsistance is just too much a part of people's lifestyles up here. I truly believe that your organization can have a voice in Alaska but only if you sit at the table. Preaching from the outside, or suing the state is not sitting at the table. Find an issue of common ground with the Alaska outdoor community (for instance reintroduction of wood bison that were wiped out by Indian hunters in the early 19th century) and work together. While you may not share common ground on all issues, you will be surprised to learn that the Alaska Outdoor community is a diverse bunch and not the slob thrill hunters you may think we are. J [Blog editors' note: A key issue for FoA and its supporters, some of whom do live in Alaska, is that predator control is - yes - an artificial undertaking and that it also denies the dead wolves the lives that they were born into the world to experience. There are people in and out of Alaska who tell us that it's meaningful to them that the wolves are granted their autonomy and their lives - even if these people never see a wolf themselves.]

Jack Tims, well put. Thanks.

it seems to me that there is an even more pronounced animal population problem that many seem to forget about - the human. massive amounts of unemployment, starvation, overuse of the earth's natural resources, pollution and an impending water crisis. if killing is the best solution for other animals, then i should foresee no protests when the government opens your backyard to population controlling hunters. to quote - isn't that more humane than to slowly starve to death? we should treat all animals with the same respect we demand for ourselves.

Jimmy, You asked why I think it's disingenuous for Alaskans-- who benefit from aircraft and other conveniences-- to claim they are dependent on eating moose and caribou. The reason is these conveniences provide options, among which, hunting is a deliberate decision, not a necessity. We know some Alaskans live without electricity and running water, but they are not the only people hunting moose and caribou. And Alaska is no longer the unbreachable wilderness it was decades ago. In addition to aircraft, the Alaska Railroad transports groceries to rural areas on a regular basis. Many Alaskans have also discovered a unique advantage in growing vegetables and flowers up north. With little darkness between June and August, plants grow faster and bigger than in the lower states. Jeff Lowenfels of Anchorage, past president of Garden Writers Association of America, describes many an encounter with a moose munching carrots in his vegetable garden. (His solution? Building high fences, and hanging bars of soap to keep the moose from entering.) When Alaskans decide to eat meat, they create a dilemma between spending $10.00 for a hamburger or spending time hunting other animals. But for most Alaskans, neither is a necessity. Ellie Maldonado Friends of Animals

What part of "The Natural Order of Things" don't they understand.

Ellie i agree with you that rural Alaskans are not the only ones hunting. i also agree that those living in the south of the state are able to grow gardens. this is not an alternative in the north. for the sake of those who do not realize the size of the state, comparing the north part of the state to the south part of the state is like comparing texas to montana. not that it really matters but the alaska railroad serves few rural areas. only a small portion of the railroad is runs in areas not accessible by road and there are no communities in these areas. they offer freight service only to anchorage and fairbanks. there is limited service for the 50 mile stretch north of talkeetna and fuel/coal to and from healy for the coal mine. in a state over twice the size of texas there is only 500 miles of railroad. i will concede that to many people, perhaps most, hunting is not a necessity. but to some here it is a matter of survival. as i have stated air cargo is available in most of the state but it is unreliable at best and cost prohibitive. i agree with what Jack Tims has said, written much better than i could have. i also think that since alaskas have voted not to allow the wolf hunts they should not take place. i disagree with FoA's boycott as those most affected by it are the everyday people, the same ones who voted against the wolf hunts. thankfully the boycott has had little if any effect on tourism here. with oil prices as high as they are you are not going to hurt the government. i also appreciate that FoA allows those of us different views to express them here. while there are a lot of emotion based comments, some of mine included, some are well thought out and fact based. Thanks Jimmy Allen

Jimmy, you're welcome. It's a good thing to exchange views. You say the Alaska Railroad serves few rural areas. Check Alaska Rails. Though it's difficult to place the Mileposts, some stops do go directly to, or are near Native Alaskan communities. http://www.alaskarails.org/ARR-mileposts.html Jack, You say the wolf control program exists for Alaskans who must hunt moose and caribou in order to survive. Many if not most Alaskans living in the bush have decided they want to live under these conditions. In contrast to people in a great many regions of the world, few humans living in U.S. territory are totally lacking options. But let's assume people believe it's important to stay. Even then, what Alaska spends on wolf control and on monitoring the size and location of animals for recreational hunters could be better spent on the villages. I did not suggest that rural Alaskans should move to the city. What I do suggest is we approach aerial wolf-control honestly. Let's not claim subsistence when there are other options. For example, the school in Shungnak owns a complete set of grow lights for a hydroponic greenhouse, but due to the cost of needed electricity, this project was closed. Were the money and electricity made available, it would indeed be possible to grow more vegetables in Shungnak and other villages. Ellie Maldonado Friends of Animals

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