Wolf Song of Alaska News

California Has a Problem;  Alaska Has the Answer

Craig Medred / Outdoors / Anchorage Daily News / November 11, 2007

Martinez, Calif., has a wildlife problem: Too many beavers, and nobody wants them killed. Well, almost nobody.

Alaska has a wildlife problem: Too many wolves, and nobody wants them killed. Well, almost nobody.

Is it possible these two problems could be brought together in one easy, perfectly natural solution?

Wolves love beavers.

OK, they don't actually "love'' beavers; they love to eat beavers.

And that could be a good thing in this case. Think of it as the perfectly natural way to deal with what the San Francisco Chronicle headlined as the "fate of popular beavers and their damned dam.''

Bringing the wolves and the beavers together certainly has to beat the alternatives.

"The beaver dam, built right on a recently completed flood improvement project, has grown from three to six feet in height since last winter, putting the town in serious jeopardy of being inundated during winter rains,'' the Chronicle's Peter Fimrite reported earlier this month.

For a city to end up flooded by its own flood improvement project would not only be costly, it would be embarrassing. So Martinez has resolved something needs to be done.

"The (city) staff report, made public Friday, says the city should remove the dam and 'humanely depredate the beavers,' '' Fimrite wrote.

"Humanely depredate'' is the PC California way of saying what we in Alaska would express as "trap the beavers and make them into hats or mittens.''

Oh no, no, no.

Not in California.

People who have figured out what "humanely depredate'' means are outraged.

"It's hard to believe that the hometown of John Muir can't come up with a better way than killing the beavers,'' said Martinez City Councilman Mark Ross.

All sorts of ideas are being suggested: Putting flood-control gates in the beaver dam. Deporting the beavers to another creek in another county. Live trapping the beavers and placing them in a zoo (there being a well-known shortage of beavers in North America zoos these days).

Considering that Muir was first and foremost a naturalist, would he like these ideas any better than killing the beavers?

I think not.

Killing is nature's way of dealing with beaver "issues,'' and if some wild, professional killers could be shipped to California from Alaska to do the killing, wouldn't that be the most natural way of all?

Granted, the wolves would eat through the beavers fast. A family of beavers barely make one meal for a pair of wolves.

But there's sure to be lots of what biologists call "alternative prey" available.

The Chronicle reported some otters have moved in with the beavers at their new pond.

Otters are edible.

And it's well known that California is overrun by coyotes these days. Wolves like to kill coyotes, and they'll even eat them if hungry enough.

And then there are dogs and sheep -- even cows -- which are sure to look good to a pair of transplanted wolves looking to create a pack to start the much-needed canis lupus recolonization of California.

Cows are big piles of meat, just like moose, and not nearly as well schooled in the art of self defense.

A pair of wolves who take on a moose risk getting stomped to death. A pair of wolves who take on a Guernsey just get free milk with which to wash down their steak.

Sure, dairymen are going to get upset about their cows being eaten, but there are plenty of well-meaning environmental groups in California with plenty of cash that could be used to reimburse farmers.

So let's get this transplant rolling. Maybe somebody in, say, Marshall, Alaska, could start the fund to help out by shipping some wolves south to the people of Martinez, Calif.

I'm sure the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would be willing to pitch in to do the live-trapping and shipping.

The Wildlife Division is a little strapped for cash these days., and this could be a whole new fundraising opportunity.

After all, Martinez can't be the only community Outside with wildlife problems that could be solved by the importation of some natural-born killers from Alaska, could it?

Outdoors editor Craig Medred is an opinion columnist. Reach him online at adn.com/contact/cmedred or call 257-4588.

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