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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

This is such a terrible thing! I think that it's okay to try and keep the wolf population down because they could get over populated, but I think they should handle it in a different way. I mean, it is like they're going on a killing spree, and that's very wrong. So I think we should do everything we can to stop this terrible act.

Let me start by saying I agree with Betty Lou Foster!! I enjoy hunting for food and even sport as long as there is as little waste as possible, but this is NOT what I would consider a hunt. Where is the sport in exhausting an animal and then shooting it with a high powered firearm? This sounds more like mass genocide of a particular species than a hunt. I would like to ask what they plan on doing with those 400 wolves the state would like killed? It's not like there is a huge demand for puppy fur or K9 meat in the USA!? How many wolves are there left in the world...? Can anyone tell me if there is going to be any sort of discrimination in this aerial hunt, such as a hunter can only take a male animal over a certain age, and how stringent is the punishment of those who do not discriminate appropriately?

It's a new year. Let's stop the killing and start saving and helping the wolves and all animals.

Hello Frank and All: Wolves have been exterminated throughout most of their natural habitat on the continent. Despite efforts to reintroduce them in some areas, wolves remain a persecuted and threatened species--witness Alaska's wolf control program. Even if it were possible to know the age and sex of a wolf from the air, the death of one wolf affects the whole group. They are unique individuals, each with a social role. Regardless of how dead wolves are used, we see no justification for killing them. Ellie Maldonado Friends of Animals

What can we do to make this stop? I am seriously considering going up there with a bullet proof vest and standing in front of the wolves when the helicopters come. I feel so helpless. I can't sleep knowing that this is happening to these innocent creatures. What else can the average person do to help make this stop? I don't understand this senseless cruelty and would like to take some sort of action to help.

Ellie, just a comment on your Alaska Railroad going by Native villiages, it goes by 3 villiages, out of at least 200 hundred or more in Alaska, So Jimmy is right in saying that Alaska Railroad only service very few, not even enough to notice , the railroad will not stop in these towns , they go straight through , if you are too close to the tracks you will get run over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, there is no money in deliveing food for the railroad [Blog editors' note: Alaska receives substantial federal money. It appears as though some of it could be more wisely distributed.]

Ellie, I'm not certain whether you are trying to make my point or yours. The school program you are talking about was shut down because the school did not have $300/month to spend on electricity. There is no tax base in these communities. There is little or no government. There is tremendous unemployment and the entire community is as tight as the school. Keep in mind that there is no electrical grid in most of these communities. They have independent electrical systems that run off of diesel generators. The diesel is barged or flown in at enormous expense. The latest figures I found for freight composition on the ARR was petroleum - 46%, Gravel, 11%, Coal 9%, interline freight (shipping containers) 29.5%, and other - 4%. http://www.alaskarailroad.com/pdf/ISER%20report%203-16-05.pdf Regarding the mileposts on the ARR. It's pretty easy to place them if you are from here. Eklutna is a native community, however it is served by road (Glenn hwy), not the railroad. Nenana is not really a village, it's a small town. It is also served by the highway (Parks). Both are an easy drive to a major metropolitan area. More importantly, none of these areas are subject to aerial wolf control. While there may be some future options, I'm talking about the situation on the ground today. That situation requires subsistence hunting and fishing and gathering to fill the freezer. It also provides a cultural link for people to a way of life that has beeen practiced by their ancestors without interruption for tens of thousands of years. I'm not certain what, if anything, Alaska is spending on wolf control. No state employees or aircraft are used. I could find no mention of it in the Fish and Game operating budgets. Although they do mention predator control as a goal. Does anyone have a figure, with citation, for the program? It is also impossible to see how much is spent on the bush as a region as there is not a department of the bush to look at . Bush funding is spread throughout the state budget. However, the state does pay for 100% of the bush schools except for the few schools that are located in organized boroughs. There are also considerable federal funds that get funneled into the bush. Frank - this isn't hunting, it is killing. No one in Alaska feels this is sport. It is intended to lower wolf populations in targeted areas with the goal of increasing ungulate populations. There are about 150K-200K wolves left in the world. By those numbers Alaska nas 5-10% of the world's population. Because the goal is population control, only adults are targeted. There are severe penalties (fines, imprisonment, forfeiture of plane) for aerial hunting without a permit or outside of a permitted wolf control area. Editor, we would love to get federal railroad funds to subsidize spur lines. However, these funds would make the controversial bridges look like pocket change. Regardless, the solution is not a few million in state food or fuel welfare. The people don't want it. While it is interesting to muse about it over our high speed internet connections, those who are living in the villages affected by the predator control just want to live their lives. I've said it before but I'll repeat myself - solutions imposed from the outside rarely work. We can describe it for you but you need to come up here and look at it. If you do come, come with an open mind. Come during the fall and see what happens to the caribou and the moose. Watch the last of the salmon get pulled from the river and put in the smokehouse. Head up north and watch an entire Inupiaq community land a bowhead whale. See some wolves living wild and free without wildlife managers hovering over them. While I understand that some of these activities are not your thing, you really need to experience them to understand some of the things we are saying. We truly are a different place up here and any real solutions will require real local knowledge. J On 16 January 2006, Rick Steiner of Alaska replies to the above comment with the following response: If the point is just that living in rural Alaska is not all that easy, I might agree. I have lived more years in rural Alaska than anywhere else in my entire life. However, leaping from that premise to the fallacious conclusion that we need to kill wolves in order to live there is patently absurd. Many (most) people live in rural Alaska without hunting. This is part of the frontier myth that many still purport here -- that life would not be possible in bush Alaska without shooting everything that moves, and that only people in bush Alaska can possibly understand all of this. It is entirely possible to live in bush Alaska and be a vegetarian, or to live lower on the food chain. Many people do. As for costs, of course they are high for things and services that have to be imported, but many folks choose to live there, knowing full-well the costs involved. There are valuable perspectives in rural AK, but there is also great inertia to considering anything new and progressive. Killing wolves is not about lowering costs of bush living, nor is it about rationale management of wildlife. Iit is simply about struggling to preserve the self-identity of a dysfunctional and defunct way of living. With all the modern conveniences of any city dweller in New York, say, some in rural Alaska still cling to a romantic frontier world-view that rationalizes virtually anything they want to do (level forests, pollute salmon streams with mine tailings, shoot and trap, etc..) as a "cultural tradition." Well,certainly such things are a tradition here, but so was slavery in the south, commercial whaling, and women and minorities not having the right to vote a hundred years ago. We simply grew out of such insanity. Time to do the same regarding the "culture of killing" in Alaska. If we can't live here in a sustainable, respectful way, then we should perhaps consider other places or models for living that are. RS

Stop please! It's a shame what you are doing !! I am not afraid of the wolf but the man .....

I have lived in Alaska for 46 years and remember how things were before all the good things (?) happened in the villages. They did not worry about the cost of electricity as they did not have any. Sufficient light was obtained by other means. The native people depended more on subsistence then, as this was before the days of government subsidized freight enabling them to have food supplies shipped to the village at postal rates. I never saw anyone in any village that refused a government welfare check. They also accept any freebie offered. I doubt if there is any welfare outlet that is ignored. They were more self-sufficient then than they are now. Many of their survival methods have been lost and the young are not interested in the "old" ways. Oil has changed everything for them and they have also developed a syndrome of "have and have-nots". The Dept. wolf control program is done by volunteers by permits provided by the agency. The only incentive is the sport involved. Some people think it is a great event to find a family of wolves, and for no good reason kill as many of them as possible. Is it effective? Depends on how one looks at it. It does result, at least temporarily, in more moose. Then the Dept. worries that the number exceeds the carrying capacity of the land. So they have a long season allowing all moose of both sexes to be killed. Off hand I think this is wrong. I think they should strive for a natural ecosystem and stop trying to farm a wild animal. Tom Classen Fairbanks, Alaska [Blog editors' note: We received this as well:] Its been almost 40 years ago that I saw my first special on TV concerning the plight of the wolves. My most vivid memory of that show was of the wolves running across the snow, not a place to hide and being shot down by men in planes!! My Dad was also an animal lover and when we spoke of what I'd seen he said "are they still doing that? I can remember them doing that when I was young!! The men who govern, who say "This will be our LAST CONTROL program in the area" only to reneg in a matter of a few years; to those who set aside vast areas for wildlife and have others come behind them and reneg on that too; to the men who shoot these animals and especially those who snare and trap them I ask WHY? Do you not read the research that says wolves make the other animals in the areas (eg moose, deer,elk herds) thrive and florish by culling the weakest and the sickest or are you so greedy that just tossing out more licenses at the expense of the torture and death of these animals means nothing?????Another factor is the love and loyalty that these animals display in their packs, they mate FOR LIFE (which is something we humans seen unable to manage), they raise their young in a loving, protective pack!! Where is our humanity to other living things? Why when humans enter the pictures must the animals be only tortured and killed without purpose????? S. Rively.

This is by far the most disturbing thing I have ever read. I remember as a child seeing this same thing on TV and it was only supposed to be temporary. It seems to me that like all things in this world, the senseless killing of the wolves is not for maintaining a stable balance of the population, but for profit. That is all it is, plain and simple.

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