To the editor:
When bison covered the Great Plains in the millions, someone likely said, "We don't want to exterminate the buffalo; just control them."
Within a century the millions dwindled to a handful and never really recovered. The California grizzly, extinct. The wolf over most of its range in the Lower 48, gone or severely reduced in numbers. Alaskan musk-ox, once numerous, were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1900s.
We are treated to similar thinking in a recent guest opinion by Sidney Huntington. The usual platitudes about wildlife management fill the piece and sound reasonable until you look more closely. For instance, villages don't see widespread influxes of wolves in the fall to compete with their subsistence hunting like they see increasing numbers of urban hunters.
Wildlife management has changed a great deal in 93 years. The value and necessity of a healthy predator population has been proved repeatedly. A recent letter with the signatures of 200 wildlife biologists, many Alaskan, stated this and strongly denounced the aerial killing program. Yet, there remain folks who won't understand. They will summon the "Outside" bogeyman as lying intruders while ignoring two votes where it was a majority of Alaskans who banned aerial gunning.
Each year thousands of visitors pay millions of dollars to see what once existed in their homelands but which has been lost. They pay to see our grizzlies and wolves. And they go home with priceless memories and perhaps a certain sorrow at what has been wasted elsewhere. They also leave with a hope that we will respect our wildlife and value it.
It would be nice to tell them they needn't worry. But as the planes take off to chase and gun down wolves from the air, as metal loops of snare wire and steel leghold traps catch well over a thousand wolves a year (and untold numbers of moose), as our Board of Game - controlled by the Alaska Outdoors Council - sets higher takes of wolves as the desired goal each year, the only thing we can say is, "Don't worry Š we don't want to exterminate them; just control them."