The Alaska Board of Game made the right move delaying a decision on a proposal to allow wolf denning in the Bethel and Kuskokwim River regions.
The proposal, forwarded by the Orutsararmuit Native Council in Bethel and the local advisory committee, is on hold until the board meets again in Juneau in November.
Putting off the decision makes a lot of sense. Making a call to allow the killing of wolf pups, whether it is a traditional form of predator control or not, will be a tough call. And not all factors involved in future predator control needs are known at this point.
Slated for the August primary is a ballot initiative that, if passed, will essentially eliminate the state's ability to conduct predator control with aircraft.
Under the initiative, aerial efforts may be conducted only if the commissioner of Fish and Game "makes written finding based on adequate data demonstrating that a biological emergency exists and that there is no feasible solution other than airborne control to eliminate the biological emergency."
It also mandates that only Fish and Game employees - not permittees or contracted agents employed by the State of Alaska - may conduct the shooting.
"Biological emergency" is defined under the initiative, essentially, as a situation where wolves and bears are responsible for an "irreversible decline" in prey populations. It can always be argued that a population can recover - eventually. Under the scenario, Alaskans just have to accept the idea that it is OK to let a generation of hunters in a region go without moose or caribou - until the population eventually recovers.
It's an anti-subsistence initiative if ever there was one.
So it makes sense for a Native council to propose a return to a traditional form of predator control where the state might have to fall short. If the anti-airborne shooting initiative passes, then predator control methods like denning may become the only viable alternatives for people who rely on moose and caribou for their dinner tables.