Wolf Song of Alaska News

Predator Population Control is a Valuable Wildlife Management Tool

My Turn / Juneau Empire / August 19, 2008

Nearly all Alaskans are proud that we have abundant wolf populations and want to ensure that wolf populations remain healthy and secure. Wolves are an important part of Alaska's culture. Yet, wolf management is extremely controversial because people have strongly held values about wolf management. Some want no wolves to ever be killed, while others prefer wolves to be managed like other wildlife species and for populations to be reduced if they become too large. Fortunately in Alaska we have enough land to accommodate everyone's values.

Wolf populations will always be allowed to fluctuate naturally on the 60 percent of Alaska that is managed by federal agencies. On state and private lands, wolf populations may be legally regulated if necessary. In most cases it is not necessary to reduce wolf populations to keep them in "balance" with the prey populations. In a few places it may be necessary to reduce wolf populations to maintain or rebuild moose or caribou populations. Currently, predator management is authorized on about 9 percent of the land in Alaska.

A few people want to selfishly impose their values on all other Alaskans. Even though wolves are fully protected on huge areas of Alaska, they want to extend this protection to all areas, regardless of the consequences. Do not be fooled by the ads that falsely claim that wolves can be reduced when necessary after the initiative passes. The initiative language says wolf control can only be done when an emergency occurs and then defines an emergency as an irreversible decline in the prey population. This is the same language that was enacted by past initiatives and was proven to be totally flawed. Argument over whether or not an emergency is occurring can last for years in the courts, and it is nearly impossible for predation to drive a population to extinction. However, excessive predation can reduce and hold prey populations to such low levels that no harvest by humans is possible for many decades. Wildlife managers know that management actions must occur before the populations reach extremely low levels or they have little chance of success.

The organization promoting Ballot Initiative 2 continues to falsely claim that airborne hunting of wolves is allowed in Alaska. This is simply not true. Aerial hunting of all wildlife has not been allowed in Alaska since 1972, and the practice of land and shoot ended in 1991. Wolf control is a tightly regulated management action conducted by a very few Alaskans who have met stringent requirement to receive a permit and act as agents of the state. It is not hunting; it is predator management, and fair-chase rules do not apply.

I worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for 24 years, including eight years as director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation and four years as deputy commissioner. I know that predator management is a valuable wildlife management tool. It is used sparingly, but at times it is necessary to reduce wolf populations. Alaska has abundant wolf populations because they are well-managed.

I urge you to vote no on Ballot Initiative 2 and allow good, scientific, wildlife management to continue in Alaska.

* Wayne Regelin is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and lives in Juneau. He serves as president of Territorial Sportsmen Inc.

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