Wolf Song of Alaska News

Protecting Wildlife

Eyes in the Field are Invaluable for Enforcement

News-Miner Editorial / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / August 3, 2008

The slaughter of 60 or more caribou in Northwest Alaska last month was quite simply a jaw-dropper.

Those pictures of caribou calves trying to suckle from dead cows will live on as examples of the worst kind of wildlife slaughter - such a waste, such a tragedy. And now it is an indelible vision tied to the tundra.

People say a crime like this gives a bad name to hunters and, in this case, to subsistence hunters whose culture and traditions are supposed to run contrary to such an action.

Little wonder that the Humane Society of the United States has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people responsible for this slaughter. The anti-hunting group has the right to be outraged as any of the rest of us, but one can't help but wonder if some of the motivation there is a desire to show that it could step in where Alaska came up short.

In the broadest, shallowest, political sense this incident is a blow to hunting. But that doesn't mean demonizing hunting is a correct or appropriate response.

The indiscriminant slaughter and waste of dozens of caribou on a spring migration should no more be a political point against hunting than child abuse should serve as an argument against parenthood.

Criminal acts are criminal acts.

What is important is how we work to bring people to justice and what we can do to prevent the crimes from happening in the first place.

Alaska has its own systems for reporting wildlife crimes. It's a sure bet that the tip that came to Alaska State Troopers in Kotzebue about this slaughter didn't come from an urban anti-hunting group. And the state has a program called Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard that works just like the popular Crime Stoppers program. People can call the hotline number 1-800-478-3377 to leave anonymous tips about fish and wildlife violations.

That non-profit program has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it is one that should remain strong and find strong financial and volunteer help among Alaska's hunters.

Alaska is vast, but hunters and fishermen are scattered throughout this vast country and can provide the eyes in the field that law enforcement officers need to prosecute violators. Hunters can and do police other hunters. Most of them know they have a lot to lose if they don't.

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