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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Gordon Haber

Progressive Alaska / October 17, 2009

Longtime opponent of aerial wolf hunting and many aspects of State of Alaska and Federal policies regarding wolves in Alaska, Gordon Haber, was killed in a bush plane accident north of Denali, near the east fork of the Toklat River. The pilot survived, but Haber was either killed in the crash or in the burning plane as a result of the impact.

Shannyn Moore, who interviewed him on the radio more than once, wrote a touching tribute to Haber and what he stood for, at Just a Girl from Homer:

He wasn't a snuggly guy. He was serious, and locked horns on occasion. Most people who care so passionately do. His website was dedicated to his life's work. His tweets were about the Toklat wolf "family" and his determination to see their recovery after a hunter killed the pack's alpha male and alpha female.

I wonder when the wolves howl tonight.

Do they know what an advocate, friend, lover of nature and defender of justice they have lost in the death of a man who knew them better than most?

We have lost one of the pack leaders in the war to defend the wolf on the same land where he mapped their lives.

Rest In Peace Gordon Haber.

The Alaska Dispatch carried Craig Medred's tribute:

Biologist Gordon Haber loved wolves. Most of all, he loved the wolves of the Toklat pack in Denali National Park, and it now it appears that love has cost him his life.

Haber, 67, and Denali Park pilot Dan McGregor were flying to observe the wolves this week when their single-engine airplane disappeared. A search found it Thursday afternoon on a steep slope west of the East Fork of the Toklat River, Denali Park spokeswoman Kris Fister reported.

The 35-year-old McGregor walked away from the crash and confirmed that Haber was killed. According to the Associated Press, he was taken to a Seattle burn center.

Haber had been studying wolves in Denali Park since his days as a temporary park service employee there in the 1960s and kept a blog where he documented his work. Friends said that over the years he came to think of the wolves, particularly those in the Toklat pack, as family. He attributed to them a "culture,'' and repeatedly crossed swords with biologists in the park service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game who disagreed, and thought wolves should be "managed'' just like any other big game animals.

Haber was sued by a trapper after he let a legally trapped wolf out of the man's snare. A state court held for the trapper and ordered Haber and Friends of Animals, his sponsor, to pay $150,000. Haber was undeterred.

Other articles and tributes appeared in Alaska mainstream media. The best of them, so far, may have been that produced by Alaska Public Radio's Dan Bross.

I approached Gordon Haber for assistance in early 1993, when sculptor Peter Bevis and I were preparing for the Knik Philharmonic's Fourth Winter Tour. Peter and I intended to cast molds of wolf carcasses that had been flayed of their furs. Peter would then bring the molds back to his foundry in Seattle and cast them in bronze. We hoped to bring attention to how grizzly the practice of aerial wolf hunting was.

Haber told us where to look for carcasses in Fairbanks. Along the way, we made telephonic contact with the head of a group that was just then beginning to help Gordon, the Friends of Animals. Priscilla Feral, who was than and still is President of Friends of Animals didn't understand what Peter and I were doing.

At the time, Friends of Animals had initiated an ad campaign in travel magazines, asking people to boycott Alaska until our policies on wolf hunting and control changed. Later in the spring of 1993, after Peter and I had finished the project, and Peter had met a couple of times with Haber, I was called by Nancy Lethcoe, on behalf of a low-impact Alaska travel industry group. Friends of Animals was running their boycott ads heavily in magazines that specialized in low-impact tourism - hiking, backpacking, kayaking and so on.

Many companies were getting cancellations because of the ads. Yet the Friends of Animals weren't running ads in magazines like Sunset, which attracted customers to the rapidly growing cruise ship industry.

When I called Feral on behalf of the low-impact group, she launched a tirade at me that took me completely by surprise. She refused to even consider stopping running the ads in magazines that catered to a clientele who sympathized with both Haber and the Friends of Animals 100%. After a long, four-letter word laced rant, she hung up on me.

I was so stung, I sent letters of complaint to every member of the board of directors to the Friends of Animals. When, later in 1993, I told Haber about the incident, he laughed and laughed, agreeing with me that Feral was a piece of work.

It is sort of fitting that the tribute to Haber at Friends of Animals isn't written by the rabid Priscilla Feral, but by Anai Rhoades.

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