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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 live in Illinois and I know we don't have wolves roaming my state but many people in Illinois honor and respect these animals. Are we still living in the dark ages of torture and murder? What is wrong with you people? We need the wolves to complete the circle of life. Have we as humans become heartless, cold and cruel murders? Yes, some people truly are that way. And you know what it is all about...MONEY. The all mighty dollar speaks instead of common sense. Look at what is happening in Idaho. They bring back the wolves only to have the Fish and Game Dept. trying to approve killing off 75% of them. Haven't we learned from our past mistakes? Without wildlife including wolves we would not have WILDERNESS. There would be alot of people standing in the un-employment line. No animals...no jobs. When will people get SMART?

Nancy; Where did you ever get the idea that the wolves were necessary for wilderness, carnivores depredations on game animals continues until there is nothing left to feed them and they too expire, What few caribou, moose survive, manage to replenish their species until the preditors population takes them down again. The population dynamics of the Alaska Lynx is the same except the cycle is generally much faster. As it depends on the snowshoe for it's food. The Department does not kill the Grizzly or Brown bear just because they are carnivors. Bear also attack people, some fatally every year. However if you feel safe wondering around salmon stream or in the bush Wildeness, be my guest. I've seen my share of wolves killed and have seen them kill a full grown bull moose and eat them alive. The people you support, do not want any animals killed, They do not want any trees logged, dams built, oilwells drilled, hunting outlawed and guns banned. However they live in wood homes, own one or more vehicles, heat there homes with electricity, oil or gas. I would bet you have toilet paper in the bath room, yes.

It's true. We humans are still in the dark ages; hunting wolves and coyote, for sport and to aid hunters. Nature cannot maintain it's balance for long in this craziness. Stop and think what the world will be like if this continues. Help the planet now and aid nature instead of destroying it.

I for one think that killing animals is a crime, and a crime should have it's penalties. Why on god's green earth would you want to kill these animals for fun? for pleasure? It's 2006 get a video game that does it and play that. How would you like it "Ed Canoose" if me and my fellow men came out and started hunting you for fun? And yes Mr. Ed got the toilet paper right here what does that have to do with killing animals for pleasure? Need some toliet paper to wipe the blood off, yes!

It never fails, with a state that has natures bounty and wildlife, you choose to capitalize not on the photo tourists, but the hunters. And to call that hunting is a travesty. Good luck with your tourism, I won't be coming and I will let everyone I know in on the "shoot wolves so you can shoot moose" concept. You won't have any wildlife to promote with that mindset. Cate Mayer

Carol - actually, we ARE aiding nature by exercising a small amount of control, rather than letting totally random acts of nature determine our animal populations. Cate: Let's see - if we have a boycott, that means less tourists clogging our summer highways (few of which see many moose, caribou, and especially wolves, which are very reclusive). This is good thing to some of us. Please, stay away, we have enough fools of our own, we don't need to import any, even temporarily. If we have a boycott, that also means we are managing predators, which means we have MORE animals, not less. Boycott, more animals, fewer idiotic tourists. What's not to like? By the way, I've known Bill Sherwonit for a many years. He's a total twit. But a nice guy all the same. [Blog editors' note: No need to call others fools, idiots, or twits. It raises the board's value to all if we can keep the communications substantive and not childish. Thank you.]

I reside in interior alaska and i have for all of my life and i agree with Ed Canooses satement about how the wolves situation is similiar to the Lynx life cycle with the snowshoe hare. I have seen first hand all the moose carcasses from wolves and grizzly. I am not resentful or hateful towards these beautiful creatures but they have gotten much out of hand. The program is working though, there are many more calves surviving and more moose around. The wolves are still here also we are not tryin to drive them to extinction or anything like that merely to try and somewhat "control" them a bit. As an Alaskan Native i am very subsistence and depend on Moose and Caribou meat for sustenance and if they were to become so endangered that we could no longer hunt them that would be more things that our culture would start to lose. How to hunt, tan hides, and being out there with the family and all. Thanks for anyone supporting the wolf control in alaska. [Blog editors' note: Please understand that everyone here who became a vegetarian did so in spite of our culture. This meant learning to convert family recipes handed down through generations. It meant coming up with new ideas to take the place of stuffing and carving turkey. It meant not being at those kinds of festivities with family, or persuading our families to change and embrace new customs. It meant no longer going out on boats with friends or relatives to catch fish. It meant changing our views about our place amidst many other cultures of an interwoven community of life. We are not so far apart. We all grew up in a society that said we should dominate and vanquish, buy and sell, breed and eat the other animals. It's a matter of thinking about customs going back a very long way. We are all indigenous to the earth.]

Heads-up to BJ, Larry and other wolf-haters: We know better and disagree that moose numbers are low in wolf control areas. Coupled with wolf trapping, hunting, and unlimited slaughter of wolves with snowmachines, the aerial wolf massacre is considered human savagery: primitive, mindless and horribly destructive. The excuses used by so-called subsistence shooters and other pundits are rubbish. There's no need to shoot wolves or other predators to feed Alaskans, so kindly stop the incessant belching. As for high fuel costs, welcome to the nation. Your checks from Alaska's Permanent Fund are viewed as free money that should cover your costs of electricity, gasoline and heating oil. Why should federal money go to Alaska when Alaska isn't willing to spend its projected $1.4 billion annual surplus or the $34 billion in the permanent fund? It's also expensive to hunt wolves from aircraft, but that hasn't stopped 157 wingnuts -- dentists, attorneys and other well-heeled Alaskans -- who we consider out of their minds. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

Wolves are one of the victims of mythology, i.e. Little Red Riding Hood, etc. More publicity is needed to clear their image - i.e. wolf cuddling baby lost in forest until baby was rescued. Strong, close family relationship.

Wolves have a perfect society, each member knows how they fit and what job they are to do. There are no freeloaders. Besides being one of gods perfect creatures they are magnificent animals.

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