Wolf Song of Alaska News

About Those Wolves

Opinion / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / July 29, 2006


Somewhere along the line it became more important than it should be to know whether wolves will attack humans.

The simple answer to the question is that they certainly are capable of doing damage and that any animal under the right circumstances-right on down to Tiny, the family Chihuahua-can be a danger to humans.

There have been a few encounters lately, and while certainly newsworthy for their rarity and, in a couple of cases, somewhat bizarre circumstances, we shouldn't make too big a deal of this.

A hiker being bitten and chased into a Dalton Highway outhouse is an amazing "Alaska" story, as is that of a bicyclist being chased by a wolf that ultimately is put off the chase under the wheels of a truck. They are almost unbelievable occurrences.

Why these things happened and if there is something going on with a particular wolf population in that area off the Haul Road-especially if one appeared emaciated-is certainly worthy of attention and some study.

But it also may just boil down to one of those circumstances where, for lack of better biological terminology, wolves will be wolves.

This issue of whether wolves attack humans or don't attack them has been mostly visible in debates about wolf control in Alaska. Opponents of control would have us believe wolves are more harmless than we might imagine.

The same folks would have people believe that predator control is, at least partly, motivated by people's fear of wolves that for centuries have been depicted as evildoers in children's literature and various myths and legends.

But Big Bad Wolf Syndrome, or, for that matter, people's fondness or hatred for wolves for any number of reasons, has had nothing to do with predator control decisions in Alaska.

Some who love and respect wolves would not want to have individual wolves harmed at any price. Others who love and respect wolves can appreciate the wolf population's role in the wild and recognize the need to manage game populations as a whole.

It's simple as that. Alaska's game managers have a responsibility to manage for maximum benefit for all the people of the state. Predator control programs have demonstrated in the past that temporary reductions in predator numbers can-under the right conditions-help both prey and predator populations increase in the long run.

The issue is about how best to manage Alaska's wildlife resources-and that has not involved, and should never involve, individuals' fear and loathing of, or love and respect for, an animal that is simply doing what comes naturally.

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