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Alaska Tourism Boycott Continues

November 04, 2004 | Wolves

__State to kill up to 500 wolves by aerial shooting__

For Immediate Release: 4 November 2004
Contact: Daniel Hammer 1-203-656-1522

Darien, Connecticut , US -- In the first year of Alaska's current state-sponsored aerial wolf-killing scheme, over 200,000 people pledged to boycott the state's $2 billion-a-year tourism industry.

The tourism boycott, an intervention led by international animal advocacy organization Friends of Animals, is now resuming -- this time to impact Alaska's summer 2005 tourism season -- with over two dozen protests from Sitka, Alaska to New York City already scheduled in the first weeks of the campaign.

On Saturday the 6th of November, activists in 16 states will present Howl-Ins: Volunteers will collect signatures on postcards for Alaska's Gov. Frank Murkowski pledging to boycott travel to Alaska until the wolf-killing ends. Supporters of wolves will display posters announcing that "Alaska is planning a heart-stopping wildlife spectacle" and showing a wolf in a rifle's crosshairs.

Howl-Ins will continue through April 2005 unless Governor Murkowski calls off the state-sanctioned killers before that date. En route to San Francisco's annual Green Festival, Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral said, "We cannot wait to howl with the people of San Francisco on Saturday and Sunday. We'll make sure that Frank Murkowski can hear us."

Since November of 2003, pilots have obtained permits issued by the Alaska Board of Game and the Department of Fish and Game. One by one, with the assistance of low, slow-flying aircraft, airborne hunters who traced, tracked, chased, and killed 147 wolves. This method of killing wolves has not been used since the late 1980s and is normally illegal in Alaska. But in spite of votes in which Alaskans opted to end same-day use of aircraft for public wolf hunting and trapping, the killing permits have Governor Murkowski's approval.

The state intends to permit the killing of up to 500 wolves this coming winter, beginning when autumn snowfalls allow for the tracking of wolves. The heightened killing plans come in the wake of a March 2004 approval for the opening of two new hunting areas.

Friends of Animals placed advertisements for the Alaska tourism boycott in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Mother Jones Magazine; more to come soon. Friends of Animals also provides a 60-second video, available electronically at

In conjunction with the boycott, Friends of Animals will continue to have a presence in the Superior Court in Anchorage, as the organization's legal challenge to this killing continues.

Friends of Animals Howl-In listings will be updated each day as locations are confirmed. A complete and up-to-date listing of Howl-Ins and campaign supporters can be found at:


Oh...and as for the comments by Nancy, Karen S., and Hank, you might consider that Gordon Haber, who often does work for FOA, has worked in the field since 1961 when he took over studies in Denali from Olaus Murie, the grandad of wolf researchers. He has more field time including air time than the majority of trappers and probably far more familiarity with subsistence life requirements and village living than many Alaskans. I'm sure you won't want to acknowledge those facts but regardless they are so. You might want to be careful about your sweeping and categorizing comments for some of the folks you include in them could well put your knowledge and experience to shame.

Thank you Art for sharing your direct knowledge and experience on this issue. FoA would like to add that in spite of what state and tourism officials may be telling the public, the boycott of tourism in Alaska is having the expected effect -- people are canceling tours to Alaska in protest of the state's wolf-management program -- and that means less money to pay for such misguided programs. Of course, I wouldn't believe much of what the state and tourism officials are saying about tourism being up. And they are certainly not as forthcoming about tourism revenue being up (is it?), or the amount of money spent by the state and tourism industry to promote tourism this year in comparison to previous ones (what is it?). It's an economic boycott, and it is having an economic effect. Its effect would be expected to be even greater if fundraising cruises to Alaska were not being held by such groups as Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund. And some groups that should have endorsed the boycott--like Defenders of Wildlife -- haven't had the good sense to do so. Still, the boycott is the right thing to do. Why should anyone willingly contribute money to the coffers of the Alaskan government, if that money can be used to kill wolves for no reason other than sheer meaness?

Oh...some other subsistence/village-life aspects to consider... According to published information from our state Fish and Game dept. they figure villages commonly reach poaching levels of 30 - 40% of the reported moose killed by hunters each year. That's a very significant take that may not be figured into the decline of moose populations around villages. The other aspect to consider in this mishmash is incidental kill. Alaska has about 10,000 registered trappers about half of whom use steel cable snares (the other half use leghold traps). Saturation snaring is a set technique wherein 20, 30, even 40 snares are set along a trail commonly used by wolves. When the first wolf hits a snare and begins to struggle it panics the rest who in running down the trail are apt to hit the other snares. Entire packs have been wiped out in this fashion. Though the Alaska Trappers Assoc. claims there is no such set their own "Alaska Trapper" magazine for Mar. '98, I believe was the issue, describes a "wedge set" which is exactly the same thing. Semantics aside, it is the same brutal and lethal method. What the trappers won't admit...and F&G has no real info incidental kill, i.e., moose, caribou and other non-target species killed by these snares. In '94 a professional trapper supported by the state set traps in Unit 20 south of Fairbanks as a "wolf control" project. It resulted in many wolves taken but also several moose and caribou as well as some golden and even bald eagles. Oddly, the feds didn't prosecute for the last and, of course, the state did nothing about the other incidental kills. More interesting is what happend to Andrew Johnson's snares in the Tok area. He is the trapper who sued Gordon Haber a few years ago. The same incident involving the lawsuit also concerned 6 caribou killed by his snares. His actions regarding them literally broke every regulation in the hunting/trapping handbook yet nothing was ever done despite the News-Miner even publishing an article with a photo of the dead caribou in the snares in the paper. If you figure at least 2 snares per each of the 5,000 snare trappers (and many trappers run hundreds of snares as they are dirt cheap) the possibility for incidental kill suggests the take of moose and caribou could be considerable. Trappers will tell you the snares are designed to break away with the force a moose can exert but what they don't tell you is even the Canadian government, which does considerable R&D for trapping, admits they only work about 23% of the time. Furthermore, even when a snare does break away that doesn't mean the moose is free of it from around its muzzle should that be where it was caught. A slow death from starvation can then ensue. Such dead moose, caribou, etc, are often used by trappers as bait and numerous snares will be set around them to catch predators coming to the carcass. All in all, trappers operate with little enforcement or regulation in Alaska. Nothing requires they check their sets once they put them in place nor is there a limit to the number they can set. There are daily take limits but most are 5 wolves a day which is a figure rarely met so hardly applicable. They can set their traps and snares pretty much anywhere, even along established trails, and rarely are required to post a notice or a tag of ownership. Thus, dog owners, including skijorers and mushers, may encounter the sets with injurious or even lethal effects on their dogs. However, as a law legislated some years ago placed a $1,000 fine on anyone disturbing a trapper's set in any way such accidents can actually result in the dog owner being fined. A musher lost the use of his lead dog about 5 years ago when it stepped in a leghold trap (mind you, trappers say they are humane and not really painful) and in panicking and trying to escape shredded its ankle. Taken to a vet it survived but will never run as a lead dog again due to permanent injuries. Since there is very little enforcement or patrol of traplines, incidental kill could be occurring at a high rate and we would never know it. Snares are often forgotten at the end of the season but remain in place and quite able to kill as when the Denali Park Headquarters pack was wiped out by illegal snares still in place after the end of the trapping season back in the late '90's. The penalty for that trapper? Just 150 hours of community service. He still traps the area.

Will you take care of the wolves when they starve to death from over-population? Will you save the Caribou from the wolves eating them? Perhaps, instead of living in eastern U.S., you should spend about 5 years living in Alaska, then, make your decisions.

Nancy, The stated excuse for allowing the aerial killing-scheme is to boost the number of moose available for hunters. There is nothing wrong with wolves eating caribou, or that some individuals occasionally die of starvation. These are all part of how a healthy, natural ecosystem functions. The problem isn#8217;t too many wolves, but, rather, too many hunters. Hunting is ecologically disruptive. The hunter, carrying weapons with which his prey did not co-evolve, becomes a super-predator which disrupts natural ecological dynamics. The concept of #8220;natural selection#8221; becomes meaningless among heavily hunted wildlife populations, and hence evolution itself#8212;the very foundation of life in all its diversity#8212;is undermined. What we see with the aerial killing-scheme is how this disruption is exacerbated by hunter-controlled governmental agencies which manipulate the wild areas to stimulate ever-greater populations of hunted animals.

It's not too many hunters, it's called a subsistence lifestyle, maybe there are too many natives for you. Native people of Alaska have been living off the land for generations, if taking a few wolves out of the food chain will keep a family from starving, I am all for it. Have you ever had to hunt your dinner? On one hand, we could stop hunting, and let our children starve, or we can hunt and gather and live the way we have for generations. In rural Alaska, there is no McDonalds or Safeway. You outsiders kill me, you think you know what is best for us. How about we take those 500 wolves and park them in your back yard, we'll see how much you love them, when they start killing your kids, and eating your pets. Because you couldn't manage to save wolves in the lower 48, your guilt has driven you north. Stay out of our business and we'll stay out of yours. Game Management works in Alaska. And for the record, you are not hurting my feelings by keeping tourists away.

Karen, The aerial killing of wolves cannot be socially justified as part of a "subsistence lifestyle." Using aircraft to kill wolves is an unnecessary waste of life and resources. If aircraft are to be employed to support a subsistence lifestyle, it would make more sense to fly in provisions directly. If families were really starving, it would be socially unconscionable to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars chasing and shooting wolves with aircraft while people starve. The aerial killing-scheme was initiated to allow private pilots to kill wolves. It is not meant to feed starving families, or keep wolves from eating people's children. It is also inappropriate to imply that this campaign some how targets native people. Please keep in mind that a large number of dedicated Howl-In supporters and organizers are from native communities all across North America. Much of the world's land has already been taken from Nature. There is a question of social ethics involving the presumed "right" of humans to turn what little wild areas are left into seasonal shooting galleries.

Your campaign may not target Native people, but it does target the lifestyle. You misunderstood what I said about families starving, I said that thinning the wolf population would keep this from happening. Many villagers don't have work to earn cash to buy provisions, they really live off the land. They use every bit of the Moose (and all other animals) to feed, clothe or otherwise provide for their families. You will never stand in our shoes, you will never understand our lifestyle, and I shall not waste anymore time trying to explain it to you. Hoping the tourists stay home. Karen in AK

Just stay home on the east coast. Alaska has no need for your style of politics. Leave game management to the Alaska Fish and Game department.

Wolves in Alaska don't belong to Alaska's human residents anymore than they belong to others in the Lower 48; wolves deserve to be left alone. Aerial wolf-shooting is a well-heeled recreation for pilots and passengers who after receiving permits from the State track wolves, chase them to exhaustion, and direct them into open areas to land the aircraft. Next, they jump out and shoot the wolves with semiautomatic rifles. This violence has nothing to do with feeding starving people, nor is it ethical or justified on any grounds. Alaska's public policy of shooting wolves from aircraft to make moose hunting more convenient is a national disgrace. Friends of Animals is organizing Howl-In protests all over the country to continue to form a broad-based coalition of people who respect free-living animals, and who book summer travel to Alaska with tourist agencies. Boycott Alaska. Priscilla Feral


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