Wolf Song of Alaska News

Time to Clear Up More Misinformation

Discuss: Wolf Hunting / Anchorage Daily News / March 22, 2007


If I had a penny for every bit of misinformation posted by such folks as "mcaress" or "sdp151" I could buy the state of Alaska and end this idiocy of "predator control".

First..extinction. We drove the wolves in the Lower '48 as close to extinction as one can get without actually succeeding and did so in less than 250 years via primitive means. The only reason they didn't totally disappear is a few parks and the efforts of farsighted folks who understood the need for a healthy predator pop. Yellowstone, after its wolves were totally eliminated, began having problems with overpopulation of elk and bison. Now that packs have been re-established biologists there have noted the returning diversity of vegetation and with it a returning diversity of fauna as well now that the ungulate are not overgrazing their ranges. Wolves have never driven a species to extinction but we humans have a superb record in that department with examples such as the Carolina parakeet (our only native parrot type) and the passenger pigeon which once numbered in the billions. We eliminated the cougar, wolf, and bison east of the Mississippi well before 1900 and have done such a good job on the Florida panther that in order to maintain any semblance of a population they are interbreeding them with cougars to keep some genetic diversity going. The last California grizzly, which appears on their state flag, was shot in 1927. With helicopters and intensive airborne killing such as this we would have no problem eliminating an entire species from Alaska and have already wiped out the wolves in the GMU surrounding McGrath, a goal set by the BOG. Bear in mind the first demonstrable human-caused extinction in the New World was the Steller Sea Cow, a massive marine mammal like a giant, tusk-less walrus, wiped out in Alaska shortly after they were discovered by Russian explorers in the 1700's.

Second, SDP151 loves to present the wolf as a slavering, rapacious monster just inches from wiping out every human it encounters. Fact of the matter is there is no documented case of an unprovoked, wild wolf in good health killing a human in the New World. In those few cases where attacks have occurred investigation (such as the attack on the boy in Yakutat a few years ago) has shown habituation had occurred which removed the wolf's natural inclination to avoid humans. Too, indications were the wolf was after the boy's dog and he just got in the way. The few nips he received in his derriere are a far cry from what a wolf intent on killing could accomplish. Having had some very close encounters with wolves in the Alaska Range while hiking and hunting,I can say my only concern at those moments was that the wolves would only show up as brown dots in my Instamatic's photos. We seem to lose an average of a child a year to domestic dogs in Alaska. We have yet to lose a single child or adult to a wolf in a documented case. People like SDP151 can rant and rave all they want but those facts remain solid and incontrovertible. However, I would urge you, gentle reader, to not take my word for it but simply call your local ADF&G office or even animal control agency and you will hear the same statement, contrary to what SDP would like you to believe.

As for Caress' usual blather about how Palin is doing the right thing, how the moose are being killed off left and right, etc, I reference my previous entry about McGrath. As well, let's add the Tanana Flats to the mix where in the 1970's the moose population crashed because too many were present for the range to sustain. It took a while to build up, the trappers took out many wolves reducing the predator population to an abnormal low, and now Don Young, one of the ADF&G biologists for the region, has expressed great concern we are on the verge of another pop crash because there are too many older, non-fertile cow moose competing with the younger, fertile cows for forage. Human hunters have not been able to reduce the numbers to what he considers safe levels and the wolf population has been knocked down by trappers to the point where it also cannot bring about the necessary reduction. You want lots of moose? Come on up to the Flats and you'll be in AOC paradise...until they crash again.

As to the AOC influence...bear in mind Palin is a member of the AOC; the large majority of BOG members are also AOC members; the AOC has pushed very hard for airborne killing and when they failed twice to get voters to allow it they went a very sleazy, backdoor method through Ralph Seekins in the Senate to get it put in place in such a way that the average Alaskan could not stop it until 2008. Had Loren Leman not sat on the ballot measure, which he later approved at the last minute, it would have gotten more than enough signatures of Alaskans to appear on a 2006 ballot. The AOC has learned well how to use politics to the nth degree in place of wise management practices. Of course, they also have strongly opposed any rural preference so those crying about starving in the villages might want to consider how many moose they lose to urban hunters against whom they cannot complete vs wolves. At one of this past year's BOG public testimony meetings several villagers testified they are worried not about wolf predation but urban hunters with river boats, planes, and ATV's. Many consider them the far greater threat to the bush way of life. Check the testimony on Seekins' ill-fated bill to open the Dalton Highway to ATV use. The rural residents all along it were up in arms against it because they knew it wouldn't be the wolves killing off their food but city hunters. Just as an aside, Ralph Seekins was booted out after just one term in a humiliating and deserved defeat by a total unknown who entered the race late despite Seekins spending thousands of dollars on ads and a certain cosiness with the Daily News-Miner, our local rag.

To add some info...it's worth noting the American Society of Mammalogists, a group of professional wildlife biologist who have more than enough field experience to comment in an informed and useful way, have twice written letters to Murkowksi when he was in office speaking out strongly against airborne predator control. Vic Van Ballenberghe, who after 40 years of studying wolv/moose interactions in Denali, might know a thing or two beyond Caress' and SDP151's very limited experience, is strongly against airborne killing. Joel Bennett, master guide and former BOG member under two governors, is strongly against it. I personally know of many hunters who oppose it. When it first cropped up in '96 a group of over 300 Fairbanks hunters (Alaskans for Fair Chase) formed a group and worked very hard to ban airborne killing. But all along, it has been the AOC pushing it, often through very shadowy, objectionable ways such as Seekins' legislation. Natives in many villages have worked to ban airborne killing. And the latest signature gathering for the next vote to ban it garnered over 50,000 Alaskans' signatures in less than 3 months, a rather astounding accomplishment if you have any knowledge of what it takes to gather signatures. That, alone, is an indication of how far out in left field are the advocates of this barbaric practice. (BTW, those signatures include many, many from villages as required by law.)

Now, thanks to Palin, the AOC, and people such as Caress and SDP151, Alaska has slipped back into the dark ages of game management.

I've collected late Pleistocene large mammal fossils in Alaska for almost 40 years. My donation of almost 3,000 specimens to the UAF museum and participation in one of their mammoth digs (ironically, near McGrath in '83) has allowed me a perspective on predator/prey relationships that extends back at least 50,000 years. You see extinctions from climate and vegetational changes over that time. That's only natural. It's possible there were some extinctions from the first humans in the New World. The jury is still out on that but even so it would be arguably natural for they were still very much a part of the natural system. But what we see going on now is not only unnatural in the extreme but shows how damaging it can be to let a small group of fanatics such as the AOC take control over a resource such as our wildlife. We can drive the wolf into extinction, easily. We managed to reduce over 20 million bison to less than 50,000 in just 5 decades using only rifles. Imagine what we can do with helicopters and planes. But, wait...you don't have to imagine; we've started on that path already.

Art Greenwalt / Fairbanks AK

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