Subject: NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE to Aerial Wolf-Killing on Unimak Island
On behalf of Friends of Animals’ 200,000 members across North America, we offer our vigorous opposition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s environmental assessment (EA) regarding the State of Alaska’s scheme to aerially assault wolves under the guise of protecting caribou on Unimak Island. No National Wildlife Refuge should permit such a predator control program, especially in a congressionally designated wilderness area.
The EA says that the main goal of wolf control is to keep a healthy population of caribou to make subsistence hunting more convenient; however, that’s faulty logic. Brown bears also prey on caribou. Also, the community of 50 humans, residents in the fish-catching village False Pass on Unimak Island, have food other than Unimak Island’s caribou to sustain their lives. When False Pass residents are inclined to hunt caribou, they’ve hunted them on the Alaska Peninsula, not on Unimak Island, so the predator control scheme for Unimak Island is illogical, scientifically flawed, and unjustified.
Friends of Animals objects to the general caribou hunt initiated in 2001on Unimak Island, yet the upshot of that slaughter is telling: Non-local Alaska residents along with non-resident hunters shot caribou — the majority lead by two commercial hunting guides, who sadly are permitted to operate in the Refuge. These hunters likely shot bull caribou as trophies, so an analysis about the ratio of bulls to cows can’t possibly be meaningful when hunters, not wolves (nor bears) are responsible for removing bull caribou in numbers significant enough to impact the reproductive potential of caribou.
Moreover, Unimak Island should be managed with integrity — as a natural system — so that this important wilderness area is protected for the interests of hundreds of caribou, wolves, bears and other animals already challenged by having to eke out a living there. When the quality of grasses declines on Unimak, the survival of caribou calves is impacted. The EA fails to address the issues of habitat quality or weather on the Refuge’s caribou.
Icing makes it difficult for caribou to find lichens – their winter food, which threatens the survival of all caribou, including the health and birth weight of calves born in late May and June.
In closing, Friends of Animals favors a No Action Alternative wherein the Service would monitor caribou, but initiate no actions to shoot wolves, or radio collar calves.
Friends of Animals