Wolf Song of Alaska News

The Aleutian Island of Unimak

Letters / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / May 30, 2010

Reader Comments:  http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/7739704/article-Bring-it-on?instance=letters_to_ed

What Mr. Compeau has been careful to leave out of his diatribe are the full facts of the matter.

First, while subsistence hunters took about a dozen caribou between 2000 and 2008, trophy hunters took 90. ADF&G has been fully aware of this situation for several years and has done nothing to address this imbalance until this election year when suddenly they decide they have to kill wolves (seems to be their answer to everything) to resolve the problem.

Second, the big problem is the bull to cow ratio is 5:100 and most of the bulls are old. This means low calf production and unhealthy calves. F&G may claim most of the calves are being killed by wolves but as any decent wildlife biologist will admit unless you actually witness the event there is no reliable way to tell predation from scavenging.

Third, according to F&G there are 15 to 30 wolves. That's an error range of 100%. Given their past inability to distinguish radio-collared wolves from those not so-fitted, their claim of being able to extract wolves with"surgical precision" seems mighty suspect.

Fourth, there are about 400 bears on the island. That's one bear for each caribou. And bears also take calves. Yet, it's the wolves F&G and Mr. Compeau hold solely responsible.

Fifth, as USFWS has pointed out in 1975 the caribou herd was up to 5000 but by the 1980's it had dropped to a few hundred. An island population is always subject to wide fluctuations just from available forage changes alone.

But, Mr. Compeau seems to have...ahem...overlooked all these facts and set out only those that fit his argument. Wouldn't be surprised if next week he has an "Unimak Island" sale on ATV's and boats. After all, he could hardly be expected to pass up an opportunity to make some money off the situation, now, could he?

Art Greenwalt, Fairbanks AK


Bring It On

by Craig Compeau, Fairbanks

Letter to the Editor

May 25, 2010

To the editor:

A battle is heating up between the state (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and the feds (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Alaskans really need to pay attention to this one.

It involves the Aleutian Island of Unimak, where the locals have seen predators take their only source of red meat (caribou) down to levels and ratios never seen before. This decline is specifically due to the feds’ refusal to allow Fish and Game to do what they do best: manage Alaska’s animals.

The indigenous people of this remote island have written letters to Fish and Game pleading for help with some immediate intensive management programs, something the department is more than qualified to do and more than willing to assist with.

Enter the USFWS, land manager of the refuge area, which obviously cares little that the local caribou population has tanked. (A 75 percent drop in just eight years.) The same bureaucratic agency has stood by and witnessed an astonishing low bull-cow ratio of approximately 5 to 100, numbers never seen before in Alaska, and a ticking biological time bomb, according to just about any educated biologist you might ask.

The feds say they want more time to study this “phenomenon.” Wrong answer. Last week, Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd wrote a letter to USFWS advising that the state would begin a program to save these caribou babies near the calving grounds around June 1.

The response from the feds? They immediately threatened to sic Obama’s attorney general on the state if it proceeds with this strategic and necessary emergency management plan.

So while Alaskans go hungry, and their caribou population plummets, the feds are telling us to sit idly and watch it happen as they shuffle papers, or we’ll find ourselves in court. I say bring it on!

When the feds start controlling what Alaskans can or cannot put in their freezer for survival, it gets personal real fast. Today it’s Unimak. Tomorrow maybe it’s where you harvest your winter meat. If you care about protecting this resource, let the governor know that you support what Commissioner Lloyd is doing — helping keep Alaska “Alaskan.”

Wolf Song of Alaska

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