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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.


i totally think its wrong what they are doing. wolves are beauriful creatures, and they weren't made to die. i would do anything to make people stop this cruelty. wolves have done know harm. they want to live in peace this winter. with knowone trying to hunt them down. they have feelings like us. and if there is anything i can do to help save wolves...i would. Gabriella

I am saddened that the human race is so damn power hungry...why must we control everything? I wish everyone was more like the Native Americans...they aprreciated nature and valued all creatures. Not only do i speak for the wolves...but for all of earths creatures. People say wolves are evil monsters...but in truth it is the human race who is the evil monsters. We steal the land and ruin it, sometimes i am ashamed to be human....

I wanted to respond briefly to Jack's posting of April 11 wherein he writes that the best way those opposed to systematic wolf-killing would be to present: "sound arguments free of the animal rights rhetoric." My immediate response to this is, doesn't it seem MORE appropriate for legislators to need to present "sound arguments" free of rhetoric heavily-influenced by politics and economics before sanctioning the systematic extermination of another living species?? and, frankly, in alaska's case, recklessly depleting the precious wildlife that makes their state so beautiful, rare, and (if you want to talk economics) attractive a tourist destination? I think the burden of proof and presentation of a sound argument should come BEFORE the killing starts- and not after once their is an outcry to stop it.

I do not believe in the killing of wolves or any other animal for that matter. Not unless that is the only way I can keep alive. I do not believe things have to be as they were in the past. Meaning hunting in order to stay fed, clothed, etc.However humans are constantly pretending that this is still the case. Some day each of us will come to our end. I bet each of us will be praying that God will grant us more compassion and mercy than what we had shown to God's creatures.We are lucky he is forgiving,YES? For we do not seem to have much mercy. I am vegan and I am in perfect health. I hope I see things change before I pass on.


I am appalled by these facts and frankly it makes me sick to my stomach...seriously physically Ill to even think about those poor innocent beautiful creatures being slaughtered like that! In my opinion these creatures are far more Intelligent than us in a lot of ways!!

OK - I lied- I'm back - and have been lurking. This debate is just too interesting, and although I totally disagree with the blog editor's put downs of opposing views, I do appreciate the posting of those divergent views Priscilla- I am not a "wolf hater". There is nothing much cooler than hearing wolves howl, or watching them hunt when I am out and about- usually moose hunting. But too much of a good thing isn't. I've had numerous opportunities to personally kill a wolf, tried twice, and missed both times. They're tricky, fast moving suckers! I'm not terribly sorry I missed, but I can separate my personal desires from what is good for the overall ecological scene. Gabrielle - " wolves weren't made to die" ??? Get real - everything dies. Wolves were made to die just like humans or anything else. Wolves are the single biggest killers of wolves. [Blog editors' note: Hello, Larry. Welcome back. The looming question is why we're all here. Wolves use their teeth and intelligence to eke out a living; wish the same was true for two-legged Nimrods. ]

Wolves help the circle of life! If we kill off all of the wolves, then the deer population will go up, and they will eat all of our crops!

Well, my teeth aren't much good for hamstringing moose, or ripping out jugulars afterward. Nor, at 57, am I particularly fast and nimble. Never learned to use a spear, either, and my varicose veined legs are embarrassing in a loin cloth. :). So I have to use a gun or bow if I am to bring down game. (And there is a fundamental philosophical difference) Alexis: hardly anyone (only the truly moronic) wants to "kill off all the wolves." But those of us who hunt in wolf country do want to share the prey resources, partly because of economic reasons (a big moose is worth about $2,000 in equivalent domestic meats, obtainable for $1.50 in bullet costs plus incidentals, if one is not a vegan), partly for recreational values (hunting - as opposed to merely killing - is FUN), partly because Mother Nature does go to excesses at times, which through "game management - read primarily "people management" - can be mitigated to some extent, and partly because hunters through their various fees and taxes, pay the lion's share of management, research, and enforcement costs. This "management" often means exercising controls on both prey and predator populations. Do we get it right all the time? No - but we are learning. With the present level of human encroachment on the "wild" world, we simply cannot afford a "hands-off" policy, in my opinion. That's my opinion. Your milage may vary....

Wolf control cannot reasonably be considered a solution to the "present level of human encroachment" that Larry mentions. What is needed is "human control" -- humans long ago exceeded the carrying capacity of Earth -- the scars from this excess will take a long time to heal, and will only heal if we learn to live with Nature instead of against it.


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