Wolf Song of Alaska News

Letter to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
Alaska Programs Related to Predator Control

September 25, 2007


September 25, 2007

Governor Sarah Palin
State of Alaska
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001

Dear Governor Palin:

As scientists and other wildlife professionals , we urge you to strengthen the application of science-based wildlife management to sound policy decisions, especially for those Alaska programs related to predator control.  We are concerned with potential problems of managing and conserving large mammalian carnivores and their ungulate prey resulting from recent approval of predator control programs designed to severely reduce populations of gray wolves, black bears and brown bears.  We strongly urge the State of Alaska to gather data necessary to justify, implement, monitor and evaluate these programs so that management practices will ensure sustained populations of both predators and prey.

Starting in 2003 Alaska approved and implemented five predator control programs in interior and southcentral parts of the state designed to severely reduce wolves and bears in order to increase numbers of moose and caribou for hunters.  These are lethal control programs where private pilots are authorized to shoot wolves with airplanes and hunters and trappers are encouraged to take large numbers of wolves and bears.  These programs now total nearly 60,000 square miles of state and federal land.  Nearly 700 wolves have been killed to date.  The goal for several of these programs is to reduce the wolf populations by 80% of estimated pre-control numbers and to hold them at that level for an undetermined period.  This is the largest predator control program since statehood.

Recently, black and brown bears were targeted in one area for reductions of 60% by authorizing hunting methods never before practiced in Alaska.  These include shooting of female bears with cubs, or cubs themselves.  Liberal bear baiting regulations, year-long open seasons, sale of hides and skulls, same-day airborne hunting and use of airplanes for spotting bears were also approved by the Board of Game.

These actions have drawn the attention of professional wildlife biologists worldwide.  We are aware that the American Society of Mammalogists has sent three letters of concern and passed a resolution regarding wolf management in Alaska.  Issues surrounding Alaska's predator control were discussed in September 2006 at The Wildlife Society's annual meeting in Anchorage and concerns were raised over the scientific basis of the control programs.  These concerns are based on knowing the end result of similar large-scale predator control programs in other areas of the world that were not based on sound science.  Often, predators subject to such programs were unable to sustain viable populations.

The basis of Alaska's recent predator control programs is the state's intensive management law.  This law mandates restoring "depleted" ungulate populations to former levels of abundance and setting of ungulate population objectives.  We are concerned that objectives were often based on unattainable, unsustainable historically high populations. Accurate determination of habitat carrying capacity was seldom considered.  The net result is to perpetually chase unattainable objectives with inadequately designed predator control programs that risk long-term sustainability of ungulate habitat integrity and sustainability of reasonable predator populations.

In 1997, the National Research Council issued a report evaluating past predator control programs in Alaska.  Included were many biological and economic standards and guidelines the committee recommended for future programs.  We are concerned that many of those standards have not been applied in adopting the current programs.  These include quantitative habitat evaluation and monitoring and evaluating protocols to ensure that results of the programs are clear and that adaptive management is used to learn as much as possible.

Accordingly, we strongly urge the State of Alaska to:

- Re-examine the biological basis of existing predator control programs.

- Reevaluate ungulate population objectives in relation to carrying capacity.

- Monitor predator reductions with protocols having proper magnitude, duration and geographic extent to demonstrate clear outcomes.

- Implement new control programs only within an adaptive management framework and revise existing programs to incorporate adaptive management.

- Apply the National Research Council's recommended standards to existing programs when possible and to all proposed new programs.

- Provide additional funding to ensure that adequate data are available on key components of predator-prey-habitat interactions.
Finally, negative, long-term consequences of predator control may outweigh short-term increases in ungulate numbers.  Such consequences include habitat damage from high ungulate populations that may result in population crashes of both ungulates and predators as well as the ancillary "costs" of predator control programs in terms of staff time and credibility with and support from the broader public.  Many in the general public are concerned that the Alaska Board of Game process is not fair and representative of the broad public interest in Alaska's wildlife.  We appreciate your support for fair and transparent government and ask you to encourage the Board of Game to consider the broader public interests in their wildlife decision making.  Finally, we urge the State of Alaska to consider the ecological role that large predators play in preventing eruptions and crashes, and to consider conservation of predators on an equal basis with the goal of producing more ungulates for hunters.


Vic Van Ballenberghe, Ph.D., Affiliate Professor of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Lee M. Talbot, Professor, Dept. of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University

Dana J. Morin, Mammalogist, San Diego Natural History Museum

Dr. Monika Havelka, University of Toronto at Mississauga

Florent Rivals, Ph.D., ICREA - IPHES

Bruce D. Patterson, MacArthur Curator of Mammals, Field Museum of Natural History

Robert A. Long, Research Ecologist, Self-employed

Michael S. Barbour, GIS Analyst, Auburn University

Ben Sacks, Asst Professor/Project Ecologist, UC Davis/California State University

Dr. Julie Glenn, University of South Carolina

Richard S. Ostfeld, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Thomas Tomasi, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Missouri State University

Marianne Moore, Ph.D. candidate, Boston University

Sarah Weyandt, Ph.D. candidate, University of Chicago

David Byman, Assistant Professor of Biology, Penn State Worthington Scranton

Mark L. McKnight, Assistant Professor of Biology, Missouri State University

Patrick Leighton, Doctoral Student, McGill University

Barry R. Noon, Professor, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State

Carol Rizkalla, Wildlife Biologist, University of Central Florida

Dr. David Koons, Utah State University

Dr. Lisa Muller, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee

Robert H. Schmidt, Certified Wildlife Biologist and Associate Professor, Utah State University

Pamela Coy, Wildlife Biologist, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Paul R. Moosman, Jr., Ph.D., Fitchburg State College

Barry Nichols, Biologist

Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals, New York State Museum

Jennifer Griffiths, American Museum of Natural History

Laura Farrell, Ph.D. student / EPA Fellow, University of Vermont

Jeremy T. Bruskotter, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, The University of Minnesota

Dr. Luke J. Dollar, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment

Shane M. Thornton, Professor, Bolivar-Richburg Central

Mel Sunquist, Professor, Dept. Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida

Sarah R. Hurteau, Senior Research Specialist, Northern Arizona University

Barbara Keller, Ph.D. candidate, Dept of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia

Charles L. Elliott, Foundation Professor of Biology, Wildlife Management Program, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University

Sacha Vignieri, Ph.D., President's Post-doctoral Fellow, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Lois F. Alexander, Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences, UNLV

Jon Winter, Principal, Governor Palin

William Adair, Research Associate, Utah State University

James J. Roper, Professor, University of Puerto Rico

Dr. E. Jean Brennan, Senior Scientist, Defenders of Wildlife

Erica Sisson, Wildlife Technician, Colorado Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Unit, Colorado State University

Dr. Abigail Benson, Durham University, Durham (UK)

David Wilcove, Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Sara Hansen, Wildlife Technician

Katy Oakes, Wildlife Biologist

Michael R. Guttery, Ph.D. candidate, Utah State University

Esther Rubin, Ecologist

Corina Logan, Biologist

Brendan Oates, Student Conservation Association

Jim Boone, Wildlife Biologist, American Society of Mammalogists

Edgar P. Bailey, Retired, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Th. Caquet, INRA

Dr. Douglas R. Stephens, BrightFields, Inc

John P. Simaika, Environmental Analyst, University of Stellenbosch

Dr. Karen Huffman-Kelly, Mount Mercy Academy

Nora Comiskey, Ph.D., William Penn Charter School

Tristram Seidler, Ph.D., New England Wild Flower Society

Al Kinlaw, Staff Ecologist

Wayne Spencer, Ph.D., Conservation Biology Institute

Matthew Wasilawski, Senior Conservation Biologist, Union Springs Central School

Kevina Vulinec, Ph.D., Environmental Science Educator, Delaware State University

Scott Ratchford, Associate Professor, Colorado State University

James A. Carpenter, Associate Professor of Biology, Lipscomb University

Cynthia M. Beale, Science Educator

Valanne Glooschenko, M.Sc., Biologist, Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society

David H. Hirth, Ph.D., Chair, Wildlife & Fisheries Biology, University of Vermont

Daniel L. Harrell, Range Technician, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jesse Troxler, Wildlife Technician

Steven Lee Montgomery, Ph. D., Consulting  Biologist

Gene R. Trapp, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, Dept. Biology, Calif. State Univ., Sacramento

Earl  White, Environmental Consultant

Dr. Ken Macquisten, Wildlife Veterinarian, Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife

David J. Zaber, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Northern Illinois University

Mary Dykes, Director, Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation

Reno Sommerhalder, The BEAR Society

Zachary Wallace, Biological Scientist

Ray C. Telfair II, Ph.D.

Carol Evans, Project Wildlife Biologist, Department of Defense

Michael Mally, Science Department Head, Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Philip Myers, Assoc. Professor, Curator, University of Michigan

Jeremy A. White, Ph.D. candidate, Auburn University

Matthias Herkt, Research Assistant, Institute for Experimental Ecology

Robyn A. Januszewski, Biologist, NEMMC

Margaret A. Schafer, Field and Wildlife Biologist

Christopher M. Papouchis, Conservation Biologist / Ph.D. candidate, Antioch University New England

Ken Keefover-Ring, Ph.D. candidate, University of Colorado

Dr. David Broussard, Assistant Professor, Lycoming College

William E. Faber, Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology, Central Lakes College, Dept. of Natural Resources

Alyson McHugh, Masters of Science candidate, University of British Columbia

Kenton Macy, Certified Wildlife Biologist

John G. Carter, Ph.D., Western Watersheds Project

Saleen Richter, Wildlife Biologist, Wildlife Services

Deirdre J. Butler BSc., President, Colorado Council for Wildlife Rehabilitation

Thomas M. Gehring, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Wildlife Biology, Central Michigan University

Guy L. Warren, Alaskan Resident and Environmental Scientist

Dr. J. Christopher Haney, Chief Scientist, Defenders of Wildlife

Dr. Franz J. Mueter, Sigma Plus

Dr. Kim McCreery, African Wild Dog Conservancy

Gary W. Roemer, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Dept. Fishery & Wildlife Sciences, New Mexico State University

Sidney Silliman, Professor Emeritus, California State University

Richard P. Reading, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor, University of Denver

Eric J. Taylor, Eagle River

Jennifer Ramirez, MSc. candidate, Eastern New Mexico University

Jan O. Murie, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta

Diana Weinhardt, Zoologist, Polar Bears International

Fred Bunnell, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

Terry D. DeBruyn, Ph.D., Regional Wildlife Biologist, National Park Service, Alaska Region

David R. Klein, Professor Emeritus, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Jack E. Williams, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Trout Unlimited

Robin A. Esterak, Science Lab Coordinator, Louisiana State University at Alexandria

Steve Sheffield, Ph.D., Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University/Bowie State University

Paul D. Forman, Sierra Club Alaska Chapter Chair, Sierra Club

Ana Davidson, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of New Mexico

Liz Walsh, Chairperson, Sierra Club, Wildlife & Endangered Species Committee

David R. Parsons, Carnivore Conservation Biologist, The Rewilding Institute

Elmer J. Finck, Chair and Professor, Fort Hays State University

Laura Scrimgeour, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

Luis A. Ruedas, Associate Professor; Director, Museum of Vertebrate Biology; Portland State University

Robert M. Ferris, Wildlife Biologist

Tanya Dewey, Research Scientist, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Jessica E. Light, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research, Florida Museum of Natural History

Alison Sheehey, Naturalist, Nature Alley

David A. Zegers, Ph.D., Professor of Biology; Director of the Center for Environmental Studies, Millersville University

Alicia V. Linzey, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Biology, Indiana Univ. of PA

Dr. Heather A. York, Doane College

Laura Cincotti, Wildlife Technician

Erika L. Barthelmess, Associate Professor of Biology, St. Lawrence University

David L. Reed, Curator of Mammals, Florida Museum of Natural History

Mike Winterrowd, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Macon State College

Virginia Hayssen, Mammalogist, Smith College

Vickie Bakker, Smith Conservation Research Fellow, University of California, Santa Cruz

Tiffanie Hamilton, Biological Science Aid, U.S. Geological Survey

Jacob R. Goheen, Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology

Sterling D. Miller, Ph.D., Senior Wildlife Biologist, National Wildlife Federation

Lee O'Brien, Wildlife Biologist, Federal

Renee LaFata, Sr. Environmental Scientist, BGES, Inc.

Bill Hilton Jr., Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

Patrick Magee, Thornton Chair of Biology, Western State College of Colorado

Susan E. Towsend, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist, Wildlife Ecology and Consulting

Andrew Joachim, M.S.T., Mammal Ecologist, Retired

Reed F. Noss, Ph.D., Davis-Shine Professor of Conservation Biology, University of Central Florida

Derek N. Potter, Field Research Biologist, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Dr. Victoria Jackson, University of Central Missouri

Carles Vila, Ph.D., Uppsala University

Frank Hailer, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, Uppsala University

Dr. Jennifer Leonard, Uppsala University

Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D., Professor Adjunct, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary

Jennifer Sands, Wildlife Biologist

Dr. Eli Geffen, Dept. of Zoology, Tel Aviv University

Frank von Hippel, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Alaska, Anchorage

Jack Lentfer, Retired, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

NJ Gates, Science Instructor, Murie Science and Learning Center

Joel H. Reynolds, Ph.D., Regional Refuge Biometrician, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Refuges

Tania M. Lewis, Wildlife Biologist, National Park Service

Matthew W Gray, Biological Technologist, Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance

Ami Wright, Biologist, Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance

Rachel Lord, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dan Schultz, Professional Wildlife Biologist

Bill Hanson, Biologist

Sheila J Dufford, The Wildlife Society

Abel Bult-Ito. Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Bradley J. Bergstrom, Professor, Valdosta State University

Francisco Sanchez, Ph.D. candidate, Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

David Edmunds, Graduate student, University of Wyoming

Elizabeth Jones, Wildlife graduate student, North Carolina State University

Jennifer Brennan, Graduate student, University of California, Davis

Philip Thompson, Graduate student, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Abigail Benson, Graduate student, California State University, Fullerton

Ryan W. Norris, M.Sc. candidate, University of Saskatchewan

Ryan W. Norris, Pd.D. candidate, University of Vermont

Brooks Miner, Ph.D. candidate, University of Washington

Michael S. Rentz, Ph.D. candidate, University of Minnesota



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