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Wildlife and Wildlands in Alaska (Part 5) The War on Wildlife: Killing with the Palin Pest Control Posse

Rudy Wittshirk / AK Voices / Anchorage Daily News / May 6, 2010

Rudy Wittshirk is a writer who lives in Willow

Alaska’s prized wild animals are being hunted down like rats. Our precious wildlife heritage has fallen into the hands of exterminators---qualified mainly to ride around in panel trucks with big plastic rodents mounted on top. The Palin-Legacy Pest-Control Posse is now in charge.

Just read the following comments and try to figure out which were actually made by Alaska game management officials.
“Rossi brings common sense to Fish & Game.“ Corey Rossi [the new Director of Wildlife Conservation] “is a man who actually traps, hunts and gets out and does things in the state.” “Common sense is now in charge.”

It’s “insane” to “protect wolves” because “they kill just to kill.”
“In Nikolai, wolves ravaged the moose we depend on for subsistence.”

Denali wolves are like “mangy dogs walking down the road.”
“Wolves have been studied enough already.”

“We have to keep the population of wolves down because they eat a lot of the moose in the [McGrath] area. Sometimes they eat only half of the moose and leave the rest to waste. Some moose are alive and half eaten, and they suffer until they die… Wolf control was made to bring up the moose population in the McGrath area for people who live off the moose meat, not for the trophy hunters. Wolves could also hurt people if they get too comfortable coming into town…I am thankful [for] wolf control in McGrath because our moose population is coming back and no one has gotten hurt by a wolf.”

Any of these remarks could have been made by just about any of today’s Alaska wildlife stewards. The “mangy dogs” comment was actually made by Game Board chairman Cliff Judkins during a National Park Service presentation (“Activist seeks expansion of Denali wolf sanctuary,” Anchorage Daily News, 2-1-10).

This careless utterance reveals that a Game Board chairman has no respect for the wildlife he is supposed to be managing on our behalf. That such sentiments are tolerated in our game management officials indicates that Alaskan politicians and the Alaska public have knowingly or unknowingly accepted the State’s declaration of war on wildlife.

The pro-Rossi comment came from a 4-15-10 letter to the Anchorage Daily News. Neither the killing of wolves, bears or any other policy was actually mentioned in this carefully self-censored letter. No mention that Rossi’s “trapping” experience is in pest control. No mention that Rossi has a commercial interest in hunting as owner of “Great Northern Safari Company” in Alaska.

A group of biologists who seek ouster of the new wildlife conservation chief say that Corey Rossi doesn’t even qualify as an entry-level biologist. In a letter sent to Commissioner Denby Lloyd and Gov. Sean Parnell, dozens of former Alaska Department of Fish and Game workers (39 former State biologists and supervisors) objected to the Rossi appointment because it would put our wildlife resources at risk.

Rossi’s job references, Chuck and Sally Heath, are parents of former Gov. Sarah Palin. They worked for Rossi, controlling birds at airports and trapping nuisance animals such as foxes and rats.

Apparently, then-Governor Palin created a so-called “abundance management” job specifically for Rossi in late 2008. After Palin quit the governorship, Rossi was elevated to his current top job because of close association with her family.

The letter from the biologists said: "This appointment marks a departure from the standard of science-based management for which the Department has always been recognized."

A caller to Anchorage TV Channel 2’s “Talk Back” is responsible for the wolves “kill just to kill” comment. [The myth, the legend, the old wives’ tale that wolves kill only for pleasure will be totally refuted in part six of this series.]

The “wolves ravaged the moose we depend on for subsistence” remark was a “Talk Back” comment from a man who doesn’t even live in Nikolai any longer. [More about the relationship of these “subsistence/depend-ons” to wolves in part six.]

We have “studied wolves enough already” appeared as a comment to this blog. Presumably we already know everything there is to know about wolves so let’s keep killing them with no more questions asked and no more studies, please! And yet, despite the militant unwillingness to learn anything new, it has recently been found that inland wolves depend heavily on spawned-out, upstream salmon, not just moose and caribou. Salmon provides from 16% and up to 34% of the diet for inland wolves. This means that wolves depend less on moose and caribou than has been officially stated by Fish and Game.

I’d like to know just how F&G figured out how much moose and caribou meat is devoured per wolf. Apparently their figures were derived based on the premise that they ate nothing else and made only fresh kills. The numbers of moose actually killed, per wolf, are sheer speculation---wolves also scavenge carcasses, of which there are plenty. This means that wolves kill fewer moose and caribou than has been calculated. Nor is any allowance made for old, sick or weak animals that would die in any case.
Something else recently learned is that federal wildlife officials are finally getting worried about crashing wolf numbers in parks; and that living wolves attract visitor revenue far in excess of that derived from the hunting and trapping trades.

From the I-haven’t-been-eaten-by-a-wolf-lately-so-predator-control-is-a-success category comes the comment that wolf control works because “no one has gotten hurt by a wolf” (letter to the editor, “Wolves Eat the Moose We Need,” Anchorage Daily News, April 25, 2010). The young man, a fifth grader at Inlet View Elementary, no longer lives in McGrath but claims his “family lives off moose meat.” Even if he still lived in McGrath, this boy’s chances of getting hurt by a wolf would be close to zero. Also, a quick check of the internet reveals that McGrath is still a hub for guided moose hunts, some costing almost $6000 for a nine-day hunt.

Game Board chairman Cliff Judkins’ publicly-uttered disdain for wildlife is, unfortunately, a cleaned-up version of what many Alaska hunters and trappers articulate in private about the wildlife they love to kill. If you’ve hung out with some of Alaska’s more crude hunting and trapping types you’ve no doubt heard them say something like: “I shoot every cat, dog, grizzly, black bear, wolf, coyote, fox, etc. I see.” These amateur wildlife biologists think are doing us all a favor because the animals they like to shoot on sight supposedly kill the other stuff they also like to shoot. Human garbage left lying around is often a factor in these random killings.

A missionary preacher and firearms aficionado told me he kills every porcupine he sees because porcupines kill spruce trees (a real conservationist). Another hunter told me that coyotes are “vermin.” Wolves, of course, have been called that and worse. The same goes for black bears and grizzlies. What these amateurs kill at random they must first demonize. However, spreading false information and stoking irrational fears of wolves has also become an official wildlife management tool---the State has tried to whip up public fear and hatred of wildlife in order to justify its policies of unconstrained slaughter.

Killing predators is something so simple that even the most unsophisticated outdoorsman can grasp the concept. If all we need to “manage” wildlife is kill wolves and bears then there is no longer any need for actual biologists---fur dealers and gopher-chokers will do. Now that wolves and bears are being slaughtered wholesale---and now that the slaughter has spread across Alaska---the average, unobservant outdoorsman can see that, at last, Fish and Game is actually “doing something” about the scarcity of wildlife he himself has helped bring about. The notion of “doing less” or “doing nothing”---as in leaving Nature alone for a change---is beyond their comprehension. And if our Human interference makes a horrible mess of things then we must interfere even harder, even more “intensively” if you will.

The promise, under Governors Murkowski and Palin, was that wildlife management would be done by “professionals.“ Instead, they and the current administration have appointed only avowed predator-killing advocates to official management positions---the compulsion to kill predators often being the only job qualification. Under the direction of these one-solution-fits-all wildlife stewards, the management system has turned loose a horde of well-funded, amateur exterminators with access to aircraft and an apparently bottomless lust for killing wild animals.
This is why trained, qualified professionals should be in charge of all wildlife management and personally conduct any so-called predator control. Professionals will presumably have used science rather than politics to determine if killing wild predators actually serves the over-all purpose of a healthy wildlife and wildlands system in the first place. Furthermore, professionals will presumably be motivated by reason and evidence---not by the terrible need to prove themselves that leads to committing the type of gleeful, vengeful and lustful mass killings now raging throughout Alaska.

Professionals (again, presumably) do not have such a lust for killing. But these amateur aerial killers of wolves and helicopter-riding mass murderers of bears love the killing for the sake of the killing itself. There aren’t enough wolves and bears in Alaska to satisfy these unfulfilled personalities. Craig Medred, former Outdoors editor of the Anchorage Daily news, wrote a memorable column in which he boldly and unequivocally stated that hunting in Alaska had deteriorated from subsistence and noble sport into just plain “killing.” No fair chase, no woodsmanship, no hunting. There was not a whimper of protest as I recall.

Craig Medred was right. Not only is most “hunting” in Alaska all about the “killing,” but Alaska’s intensive predator control program has become nothing more than an exclusive thrill-hunt reserved for the rich and privately-funded who have “volunteered” their in-flight services to commit mass wildlife killings under the pretext of helping feed the poor starving masses of Bush Alaska.

The State needs to put an end to legalizing drastic measures such as shooting animals from aircraft---and the baiting, snaring and killing of grizzly bears and cubs. The thought of one of these magnificent creatures struggling with its foot caught in a cable snare is repulsive.

If the State can scientifically justify predator control then let the program be carried out in a professional manner---what we have now is every wildlife-killer’s fondest wishes come true. These types, for various psychological reasons, just like to kill animals. We don’t need this love of killing as an integral part of our wildlife management programs. But judging by past remarks, even some members of the Game Board would kill wolves and bears just to spite animal rights activists. We are now seeing our wildlife managed by principles of disrespect, pettiness and vindictiveness. Science is out of the question.

These amateur wildlife exterminators justify their psychological need to kill wildlife with high-minded references that they are engaging in this brutality as some sort of noble willingness to do a dirty job for the benefit of others. But who, pray tell, is paying for the helicopters so former legislators Ralph Seekins and Scott Ogan can fly around killing large numbers of bears while pretending they are doing it for subsistence users? These activities are being financed by money from the wildlife-killing industry. Some courageous Governor, Judge or Legislators need to suck it up and put an end to this industrial-strength desecration of our wildlife.

Rudy Wittshirk
[Part six of this series will refute some basic myths about the wolf.]


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