Wolf Song of Alaska News

In Memory of Dr. Gordon C. Haber

Lisa Matthews / November 19, 2009

In the fall of 2002 I met Dr. Gordon Haber. It was one of the highlights of my life. Having just moved to Alaska with big dreams about working in the field of animal behavior, studying wolves, I was referred to Dr. Haber by someone in the career center at UAA.
We met at Cafe del Mundo and spoke for a couple of hours. Having a hundred questions about his research, one of the most pressing was if he would hire me to be his assistant. In the end, while he said that I was qualified to work with him, he preferred to work alone and that there was only room on the Cessna for two people, the pilot and one passenger. Nonetheless, our meeting was profoundly moving to me.
He spoke of the #1 ingredient for science...WONDER...and lamented that many scientists no longer have it. He spoke of the importance of preserving natural processes, and that it's not simply about maintaining biodiversity. He corrected me when I used the term "packs" when referring to groups of wolves and said that they were "families" comprised of mostly related wolves. He told me to imagine the most intelligent, emotional, and sensitive dog I've ever known and then realize that wolves are all that extraordinary - it is just commonplace among them and necessary for their survival. He dissuaded me from trying to get a government job because he felt that they do low quality, backward science and that the main concern is with the taking of resources rather than being focused on behavior research.
Being in Alaska, after coming from the "Outside", I was able to see the giant obstacles Dr. Haber was constantly and bravely fighting against. Alaska is beautiful and, in spite of that, there is a very large culture that does not think of protecting it. The idea is to just take from nature for your own, and for the state's, gain. While living in Alaska can be a harsh life, indigenous peoples have lived in the state for millennia with attitudes that I would call much more harmonious and respectful. Dr. Haber was continuously having to battle a mindset from the Alaska government that is anti-environmental, and with self-interest as its priority. Surprisingly, not even in big, wild Alaska has the wolf been left to roam in peace and without persecution by humans.

My heart goes out to Dr. Haber for his unyielding advocacy for one of nature's most magnificent creatures, and I'm grateful for all the research he has done to educate us all - he left an extensive record of photo essays and reports for anyone to enjoy and learn from. It's all on his website www.alaskawolves.org. We must keep his passion for learning about wolves and his vision for their protection alive.


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