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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.


On wolfs. They are beautful, loyal and care for there familys as we do ours.I have always wanted to see Alaska but not now.I do not understand how peole can do that, but you know the most dangers animal on our plant is MAN. They kill for the thrill of it. A wolf kills for food. If you evern lived with one as a family member you could see how they are. I have two that is 94% wolf. and would not trade them for a dog. But please DO NOT KILL what God put here to help us enjoy life.

I agree with you Barbara Lieberman. I love wolves and lived there for 7 years, I am only 11.

I decided to read up a little on the subject because i have always been confused on which side to support. I've always loved animals and always will. ive lived in alaska my whole life and that is why i have been bothered by the issue. I completely understand both sides of the arguement... what i want to point out is that it is indeed controlling the population. i know, statistics are boring but bear with me and think about it. there were roughly 7000 to 12000 wolves in alaska as of 2002.. and one pack of wolves has a territorial radius of about 500 square miles.. with 7 to 12 wolves per pack, this would be quite the ideal amount of wolves you would want.. if you had anymore they could possibly be overpopulating. (alaska is roughly 500,000 square miles, its simple math)i got this information from of course you could say the information is blasphemy. but people do want what is best for all parties.. believe it or not. alaskans are not as extreme as you think. yes, i notice later after the initial article that you state you are against the "157". then why are you so against alaska as a state? why and how would boycotting touring alaska would do any good at all? i think that almost everyone that has lived here for a substantial amount of time has grown to respect the wilderness and all about it. so i feel safe saying that most true alaskans don't want to "slaughter" the wolves. i did give this some thought.. and i wondered, so what would happen if the wolves did indeed become overpopulated? they would eventually become the victims of more painful deaths... if they did become insanely numerous they would fight over territories and would end up as road kill. they would also eat all the available food sources and they would starve to death. what else would happen to them? can you tell me? so in the long run.. which plan is better? please, please, please don't respond to me unless you have fully read and completely understand what im saying, i don't want someone saying they dont want them to die because they are majestic creatures and all alaskans can burn. i really would like an intelligable response, if any. oh yeah, I think its absolutely inane that some of you think that natives should change their ways for the good of animals. these people's past generations (i dont know if they still do or not) have been worshipping animals for all they give to them and all that spiritual stuff. i mean even their god type figures are animals. i would think that they are more connected to the animals and know them better than anyone. espeically those of you that live in cities. i mean really.. think about it. its analagous to a brain surgeous asking a dentist his opinion of what he should do when he is trying to remove a brain tumor. no, not the best analogy i guess, but i hope you know what i mean. Blog editors' note: Brain surgery aside, it's human behaivor that needs to be controlled. There's a massacre of wolves in Alaska, and killings that are now promoted 10 months out of the year. Of roughly 600,000 residents, 14 percent hold hunting/trapping licenses, and a smaller percentage of those hunters are bent on wolf slaughter for every reason under the sun. They have dominated public policy during Murkolwski 's administration, disgraced Alaska and our country as a whole. It's all violent, deceitful, political rubbish, and a host of Alaskans are saying so including wolf and moose biologists there who are continually marginalized by the wingnuts on the Board of Game.

I am only 11 and lived in Alska for 7 years, but then I had to move to Oregon... but, anyway, wolves are my favorite animals, I have loved them for as long as I can remember! I can't believe people would want to kill them. And, wolves are going extinct because of people killing them! It is not right!

t"blog editor" - please, did you not read my reasoning? there are 1500 wolves killed every year by trappers and hunters.. AND they have used wolf control..and they have sustained their population and it has doubled in the past 20 years. this simply tells me that wolves are an amazing animals that can adapt to whatever they need to. And they obviously work together because their species as a whole, in alaska, is extremely healthy. like i said before, if there were any MORE wolves in alaska, it could be potential overpopulation. [Blog editors' note: Don't buy into the Fish & Game's propaganda about wolf populations, moose numbers or much else. They pretty much make it up as they go along. They don't count wolves, Kristin. They inflate numbers and extrapolate from numbers of dead wolves offered by trapppers. In the vast territory of wolves, many thousands have been horribly mistreated and treated like ~vermin.~ The point is it's wrong on scientific grounds, and it's unethical. ]

Kristin, it will not matter what you say or how much scientific data you mite have, you could have all the scientific data in the world, and the FoA will still take the postion that they take, it only show you that how radical there way of think is, it also show you the narrow mind type of think you will run across , to them it does not matter when a pack of wolves is pulling the moose calf right out of it mother at birth and I mean as she is giving birth , which in turn kill the mother and calf, then move right on to the next one. but none of that matter, because the blog editor will still try and think of something clever to even defend that, that is why I have not respone much lately to FoA page the best I can do is keep kill the wolves that are eating the moose and caribou that I eat. [Blog editors note: The best Gordon can muster is to kill, kill, kill, complain, post something inane and then repeat the cycle. Moose weigh 1,200 - 15,00 pounds, so it's silly for you, Gordon, to be whining about killing moose and caribou at every opportunity. One imagines you're buried in moose flesh. Eat something else, Gordon, for starters, and quit competing with wolves who are just trying to stay alive in an increasingly hostile, human -dominated environment. A telling note: Gordon is self-employed as a specialty contractor with a firm in Cantwell, Alaska. Gordon works for a living, despite the complaints about one's hand-to-mouth existence. ]

I find myself coming here again to read the continuing hyperbole of both sides of this debate. To those who support the aerial shooting (I also won't call this hunting and I don't know of any hunter who would) you have bought into the mythology of the balance of nature. This is a Hellenistic myth that has persisted to this day. Natural systems are, by their nature, dynamic. Both ungulate and predator populations are subject to wild fluctuations. At best, predator control is a poor tool to temporarily alter populations. However, the FOA and opponents are equally guilty. You've mythologized the wolf to some sort of supernatural status. Don't get me wrong, wolves are cool animals and I've always been impressed everytime I've been lucky enough to see one; but they are still animals. You cross the line between fact and belief when you begin to argue their rights as sentient beings. Wolves are cool but they aren't furry people. Some of their social behavior seems familiar but we are sadly reducing them to a cartoon if we start to debate their sentience. Wolves do have commercial value - Their fur is unparalleled for parka ruffs except possibly by wolverine. Why? In very low temperatures, they are the only thing ever seen that frost won't stick to. This isn't fashion, this is keeping frost away from your face at -40. We haven't found an effective substitute yet... I will ask the question I have asked many times in the past - FOA, has your campaign saved any wolves? Have you done any good or have you merely strengthened the legal arguments for the shooters, perhaps advertised your cause some, and raised some money? Hand-wringing and boycotts are not going to affect this; crank e-mails to Frank Murkowski are not going to affect this; what will affect this is sound arguments free of the animal rights rhetoric. Enjoy tilting at the windmills but remember the fate of Quixote, Treadwell and Chandless... J [Blog editors' note: We're unsure whether Jack has commercial value, but despite his myopic view of sentience, Jack asserts that wolves are cool animals and that this coolness provides an assortment of cool body parts -- accessories for parkas and more. Then Jack lectures us about what will be effective in Alaska as though we want advice from detractors who think wolves are cool garments, and that sentience only applies to Homo sapiens. The overarching issue is about justice, and we'll continue to address it here whether or not Jack has put on his listening ears.]

I can't see why anyone would want to kill any animal. Is it just because we're afraid of them? or is it because humans must run the earth? Killing of animals is not right. I dont agree with it. especially when it comes to the majestic wolf. I despise those who kill for sport and for no reason. We used to live in harmony with the wolves. why cant we now?

this is so wrong wolves like other animals deserve to live.... why cant people see that?

This needs to stop.. Wolves are good animals and these things that we call humans who hunt these animals are the ones that need to be...stopped. They kill out of fear and lack of understanding of these wonderful animals and its wrong. I hate it.. It makes myself and other people who love these animals sick.I love all animals .


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