Wolf Song of Alaska News

Keep it Civil: Denning Proposal Deserves Reasonable Discussion

Editorial / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / January 28, 2008


And we thought the idea of predator control with helicopters was a politically tough issue.

It's nothing compared to what's come from residents of the Bethel and Kuskokwim River regions with requests for the Alaska Board of Game to lift rules against "denning," a practice outlawed for many years that involves pulling wolf pups from the den and killing them.

Not surprisingly, the idea of killing puppies drew strong reaction from wildlife protection groups. And it quite likely will be a tough sell for average Alaskans.

The director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance labeled it "a Stone Age concept" that has no place with civilized people. "It's just barbaric," said the group's director.

But those comments seem a little insulting.

Folks around Bethel and those living along the Kuskokwim might have a thing or two to say about "civilized" societies that move in and displace existing cultures, so those who consider themselves more advanced than others should be careful about passing judgment on what is or is not barbaric. Placing other Alaskans' concepts on par with the thought processes of cavemen is just no way to begin to engage in a reasonable discussion.

We should start with the simple fact that the Orutsararmuit Native Council in Bethel and a citizen Fish and Game advisory committee in the central Kuskokwim River region have submitted proposals to lift denning restrictions. Moose populations in the area need relief from predators and aerial gunning has been less than effective. Subsistence hunting has been eliminated or reduced in much of the area while costs for fuel and other essentials are skyrocketing. Ground beef sells for $5.19 a pound at the Alaska Commercial Company store in McGrath.

So, what to do?

Elder Native Alaskans remember controlling wolf numbers to protect caribou and moose populations by monitoring wolf dens in hunting areas and regularly culling wolf pups.

People have recognized the wisdom of preserving traditional ways and keeping communities close to their environments. We lament bloated governments and wasted energy. So does it make more sense to allow residents of a region who have coexisted with the wolves for hundreds of years to manage their own affairs, or is it best to ignore old cultural ways and instruct people that it's best to sit back and allow government shooters in helicopters or airplanes to soar about and try to humanely dispatch wolves with buckshot from above?

An emotional response to culling wolf pups is to be expected. But we should keep in mind what actions our citified tax dollars mandate behind the doors of the local animal control shelter before any of us mounts some high societal horse with regard to controlling animal populations, domestic or otherwise, in more rural areas of the state.

Sometimes we have to open our minds to uncomfortable thoughts to understand other cultures - but that is the civilized thing to do. The Board of Game has to seriously consider these denning proposals. Pass them or not, there are good reasons to consider these ideas, not the least of which is that the people forwarding the idea deserve a respectful reception.

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