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Aerial wolf control effort begins

December 14, 2005 | Wolves
by TIM MOWRY, published in Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Despite howls of protest from Outside animal-rights groups and a grass-roots campaign to outlaw same-day airborne hunting of wolves, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is going ahead with its controversial effort to produce more moose and caribou for hunters.

The state would like 400 wolves killed this winter, the third year in a row that hunters armed with special permits can shoot wolves from the air or land.

So far, only six wolves have been killed this winter in areas targeted for lethal wolf control, but that number will climb as more pilots take to the air and the amount of daylight and snow increases to make tracking wolves easier, Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said.

The state recently issued more than 100 permits to pilots who applied to participate in the program. Pilots, most of whom have "gunners" flying with them, must be approved by the state.

Alaska is home to the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the United States. State biologists estimate some 7,000 to 11,000 wolves roam the state.

More than 400 wolves have been killed since the state began issuing permits to aerial shooters two years ago to reduce wolf populations in specific "intensive management" areas, including a reported harvest of 277 wolves last year...

Priscilla Feral, executive director of Friends of Animals, the animal-rights organization based in Darien, Conn., that has protested Alaska's predator control program by promoting a tourism boycott, is still fighting to stop the state from killing wolves.

While the group is not organizing the "howl-ins" the way it has the past two years, Feral said the group has a suit pending against the state to get the program stopped based on lack of information.

"We're hoping to have the program declared illegal and halted," Feral said. "We're just waiting to hear the judge's ruling to see whether or not we have a trial. We really think this is going to be decided in court."

There's a chance it could be decided by Alaska voters at the ballot box, too.

To read the full article, click here.


A boycott is a wonderful idea. I would be interested to learn how much of Alaskas income is tourist generated and how much is generated from hunting fees. I've already talked 3 couples out of Alaskan vacations for this reason. Once again humans have managed to reverse a system that nature has perfected. Wolves are opportunists, taking any animal thay can (to survive), which includes the sick, injured and elderly and not always the healthy and strongest of the species. Thus ensuring that the more suitable animals survive to breed. Only our species selects the animals that SHOULD survive in order to perpetuate a species. Either to add an already sufficient food industry or to place on a wall. Pathetically arrogant. How can this be allowed to continue,......the almighty dollar.

A few thoughts here: It's rare for wolves to kill more than they can eat, but like the fox, wolves sometimes retain their prey for a future meal. Wolves must kill other animals to survive. We don't. It's disingenuous of those who benefit from aircraft, computers, and other modern amenities, to claim they are dependent moose and caribou. The time has passed for modern societies to glorify the hunter. This is an outdated concept that was largely developed during World War II, as anthropologists sought to understand how humans could kill millions of their own species. It was at that time they theorized hunting and killing were part human nature. On this foundation, they also thought our brains evolved as the result of organized hunting, and eating animal protein. Today we know that like other primates, early humans ate a plant-based diet. Even after they became hunter-gatherers, animal protein was scarce. Perhaps that explains why we are still physiologically suited to vegetarianism. Early Native Americans in warmer climates favored a vegetarian diet because they realized it was healthier. We also know that carnivores aren't all that interested in killing. Though they are obliged to eat animal flesh, they would much rather scavenge than hunt, if they can obtain enough food that way. If it's a question of survival for true carnivores--not an interest in killing-- what does that say about us? The "Man The Hunter" theory is no longer accepted as fact, as it appears likely the human race evolved by avoiding being eaten, rather than by eating other animals. By the way, we're still being eaten by continually evolving microbes that defy modern science, and manage to kill us. So what makes us think we're at the "top of the food-chain"? Let's stop being arrogant, and start respecting the other animals who share this planet. Ellie Maldonado Friends of Animals New York City

I completely agree with Safira. It sounds like she knows what she's talking about. If anything, if Alaska TRUELY needed to decrease the wolf population, try something where they wouldn't die or get hurt. There are ALWAYS alternatives. And if you can't find an animal to kill so you can eat it... go to a grocery store. But don't blame your problems on animals who truely need to kill to survive. Because unlike humans, they can't get money and go to the nearest store. Leave them be. God put them here for a reason, and mankind killing them, isn't that reason.

something seems a bit weird here. everytime it comes up that there are no stores in the bush someone writes in that we could fly the food in. i have read elsewhere on this website that FoA is against opening ANWR for oil production. if we can not use the oil to fly the planes how are we to fly food in? shipping food in to the bush is very expensive. i had lots of money and could afford to do so, but someone boycotted tourism and i lost my job. now i have to hunt to survive. thats fine though as i would rather harvest my own food than put up with the tourists. [Blog editors' note: The point is that your position states you can't get food in, yet you've got aircraft buzzing around. Which is it? Have you got modern conveniences or not? The advocates don't necessarily press you to do either one. Most of your state's ex-Outsiders moved into Alaska due to the oil wealth. That idea is about to have its peak, so to speak. Actually, as our conference presenter Loren Lockman of Tanglewood Wellness Center observes, we're all designed to live as near to the equator as possible, and that's where our food economy is fairest and most efficient. It's probably at its least efficient near the polar regions. Thanks for writing in.]

Some comments from Alaska... Safaria, either label your comments as unsupported rehtoric or stick to the facts. Just making stuff up doesn't really advance the debate here. There are as many wolves in Alaska as there have ever been. It is thought that the numbers are probably greater than the prehistoric numbers because of the lack of competition from other predators. Why aren't there more predators? The best guess is that the native americans killed them off as part of the North American Megafauna Extinction. So before we hold up natives as stewards of the land, you might want to consider all the cheetahs, lions, short-faced bears, saber-toothed cats, and dire wolves that they helped extinguish (along with horses, several elephant species, ground sloths, camels, steepe bison, llamas, giant beaver and armadillo). These were likely pushed into extinction by paleoindians. In early historical times, the natives wiped out wood bison from the interior and (with help from whalers) musk oxen. You can domesticate caribou - they are called reindeer. However, it is difficult to do where there are wild caribou stocks because they tend to run off and interbreed with their wild cousins. Moose can not be domesticated. They are not a herd animal. The Russians have tried without success for a long time. Sport hunting for moose is not really a big industry up here. Sport hunting produced $216,972,000 in 2001, the last year that figures are available. By contrast, wildlife watching produced over $498 million in economic activity. Also, the caribou and moose populations that are directly affected by the arial wolf control program aren't heavily sport hunted. They are more subject to subsistence hunting pressure by Alaskans. So the economics of "sport hunting" really aren't driving this program. The huge majority of these hunters are Alaskans, not outsiders. The image of the Alaska safari is intiguing but mostly these are Alaskans heading out to fill their freezers. None of the predator control is "hunting" or is being done by hunters. When hunters hunt wolves they either trap them or shoot them (on the ground). They have very low success rates. The wolves aren't being "killed off in ridiculous numbers" or in numbers that will affect statewide wolf populations. The purpose is to affect very localized populations and yes, it does have an effect on the calf survival rate in those local areas. Unfortunately, transportation technology has not made it economically feasable to transport meat into the bush. Store meat is very expensive. Hamburger is $10 a pound or more in most villages. Remember that unemployment is in the 30-50% range in all but the smallest villages. Most villagers are just getting running water and many do not have it. Yes those people will starve; the reality is that the communities will die and the last vestige of a culture that has existed for thousands of years will die with it. It is hard to tell even other westerners just how out in the middle of nowhere rural Alaska is. There are no roads, few air strips, few grocery stores, almost zero infrastructure. Darting and capturing and relocating these animals is possible but much much more expensive. I don't see FOA offering the tens of millions of dollars to subsidize such a program. If you want to impose an expensive program I assume you are willing to put your money behind your rhetoric. Yes Judy, and Gabby - that is the economic and factual reality of rural life here. It used to be that natives moved during the year to follow the fish and animals. They can't do that anymore. Nomads don't work in the modern world. Run the numbers and you begin to see the true value of a moose or several caribou to rural residents. So why is the government doing this? Because there is a constitutional mandate. Article 8 sec. 4 of the Alaska Constitution mandates a sustained yield game management policy for the maximum benefit of the people. Alaska has consistently determined that this means maximum sustained yield of food species. Sorry this was so long but it seemed like we were getting a little caught up in the rhetoric and were losing track of the facts. At its heart, this is a political debate. You don't believe in killing wolves for any reason and Alaska does under some limited circumstances. We have our reasons (not all of which I agree with) and you have yours. It's really that simple. Thank you for your forum, J [Blog editors' note: If only villagers were hunting caribou and mooose, wolf predation wouldn't have come up as an issue. People are choosing to kill other animals, and yes, some of them do think this is a sport and a thrill. We've shown photos and text on this blog from magazines going back years, demonstrating quite clearly that aerial chasing has a history of being considered a hobby of thrillseekers with the means to do it.]

if the white man never came to this country , we never have this problem, we the indians would be able to hunt wolves for their fur when need, be able to hunt moose when hungry, so quit having kids because they grow up and have more kids and they need space and they start moving to Alaska, please leave us alone

Editor, Yes, I've seen those same videos and would liken them to people shooting bison from trains in the west. They are at least 30 and more likely 40 years old (the most common one seen with the piper supercub is from 1957 - pre-statehood) Why people did that is a little difficult to understand. By the time you figure in the cost of the plane, avgas and everything else, it seems like a very expensive form of "recreation." I've also read the articles from old hunting magazines and was somewhat startled by the hostile attitude toward wolves and coyotes. Those articles are mostly 50 to 80 years old and reflect the attitudes of at least two generations ago. I can tell you that I have not heard that kind of talk from any Alaksans including trappers and people who live 24/7 in remote areas. Most of them will shoot wolves if they come around their area but mostly because they pose a risk to their dogs and the fur is a source of cash, not out of hatred or thrills. There are still sick people who get off on the actual kill. I've met them and am generally underwhelmed by their ethic and repulsed by their attitude. Their hunting style borders on wanton waste and they are responsible for the huge majority of game violations. Anyone who has found a caribou with only the backstraps removed knows how angry it makes you. An easy way to not run into them in the woods is get more than a few miles off of any road or well established trail. However, do not paint all hunters with such a broad brush. To most hunters in Alaska, hunting and fishing is an enjoyable way to spend time in the country and put a year's worth of meat in the freezer. I won't try to sell a vegan on the activity but I will ask you to not group the huge majority of us with the slob thrill hunters. It is difficult to explain to non-Alaskans just how big this state is. We are talking about aerial wolf control still - right? The five areas that are currently open for aerial wolf control are a small area around the village of McGrath, the Fortymile basin, a portion of the Nelchina basin, the central Kuskokwim, and the west side of Cook Inlet. Although a large area by Lower 48 (esp east coast) standards, this is a very small portion of Alaska containing hundreds of wolves (out of total populations in the 10-15K range). With the exception of a portion of the Fortymile country that is near Tok, these areas are very remote and off the road system. All of these areas are places where the vast majority of the meat consumed is game meat. Again, it is the simple economics of the Alaska Bush. Again with the exception of the Taylor highway north of Tok, these are not the kind of areas where "thrill hunters" hunt. My experience is these hunters rarely stray very far from well established roads or trails (or bars) and do not engage in physically difficult walk-in, fly-in or float-in hunts. Although one can certainly argue with the science, I do not think that it is fair to characterize the program as promoting or benefiting "thrill hunters." J

blog editor, my point is not that we cannot get food in, it is that FoA seems to contradict itself by suggesting we use vehicles that run on fossil fuels but condemn us for trying to get those fuels out of the ground. of course we have aircraft, i have all but stated as much. i also stated that the cost of suppling food with them is prohibitive at best. i simply cannot afford to buy store bought hamburger at $10 per pound. i will not disagree that a vegetarian diet may be healthier as i do not know the facts either way, but if you think meat is expensive up here then try buying produce. we do not have the luxury of growing our own. as to Loren Lockman, are you suggesting we humans all move towards the equator?

blog editor, you are right, the worlds produce is best grown near the tropics which is kind of near the equator and not in the polar regions, but Jimmy in the bush was stating that it costs money and OIL to fly food of any kind to those remote areas of the world, where people live and have families. Are you suggesting that over 6 billion people live around the equator? Not all humans are designed to live near the equator anyway, people evolved to live further from the equator, they adapted to living in harsher climates, why do you think some people have white skin, it was an adaptation to living in harsher areas of Europe. As to your comment, "Most of your state?s ex-Outsiders moved into Alaska due to the oil wealth. That idea is about to have its peak, so to speak." do you mean that people will stop coming to Alaska for its oil wealth. You're dead wrong; more people will come up to AK for oil, gas, and other natural resources. AK's mineral, mining, oil, and gas industry is one of the strongest in the nation and is continuing to grow. Congress changes and so will the decision to not drill into ANWR. When oil prices are topping $80 per barrel and we haven't come up with some other viable energy source, people will think differently. Now I'm not saying that it would be better to use our world's natural resources, but it is necessary. We couldn't have this lovely conversation if we didn't. I actually think that we should be developing more viable energy sources, but people don't like nuclear, coal or oil and unless we have magic wands we can't create energy from nothing. Its physics, for us to have energy then something must be consumed or changed into to it (like oil). So until we invent the revolutionary energy supply I would like not to pay $3 (or more) a gallon for my gas or pay thousands for heating and electricity. Like I said before its not the best option, its the only option at the moment. If we stopped pumping oil and gas and we stopped mining minerals just for FoA then we would be in the stone age (all crowded around the equator) and you could complain about something else you don't like (like the fact that I love a double cheeseburger from McDonalds or that I hunt to survive oh wait you already do).

reading this before i seem to have missed a comment made by Ellie Maldonado. you state that "...It's disingenuous of those who benefit from aircraft, computers, and other modern amenities, to claim they are dependent moose and caribou." it is not that these amenities do not exist, it is that they are too expensive. lets see if i understand. you want to boycott our state because we are killing wolves. boycotting our state affects the smaller 'mom and pop' businesses far more then it does the government. the businesses you do hurt close and people lose jobs. without jobs they can no longer afford the high cost of shipping in food. without resources to buy food, they turn to hunting to provide for their families. they have trouble hunting because predators have reduced the game populations. since the game count is low and the wolf count is up, trapping increases as sales of the pelts can be used to buy food. i guess the way i see it is 'come to alaska ...or the wolf gets it!!!'


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