Wolf Song of Alaska News

The Old Subsistence Switcheroo: State Transforms Unimak Trophy Hunt into “Subsistence”

Makes Feds Look Like Real Meanies

AK Voices / Anchorage Daily News / June 9, 2010


Rudy Wittshirk 

Reader Comments:   http://community.adn.com/adn/node/151984

Basically, Unimak’s bull caribou were wiped out by trophy hunters---but now, suddenly, as if by magic: It’s a “subsistence” hunt.

That’s “subsistence hunting” in Alaska. The Two-Leggers float in and gun down the wildlife. Then they step onto the floats of their float planes and fly off into the sunset. Elsewhere in Alaska it‘s a similar scenario: kill the animals, then rev up the bush planes, fire up the four-wheelers, crank up the old motor homes and leave the scene of the crime.

The wolves have nowhere else to go. They are lurking behind the crime scene tape with caribou blood on their lips. Guilty! Send in the gunships! That’s how predator control works in Alaska. And if anyone questions using manned killer-drones to blast wolves from the air they are just namby-pamby crybabies who don’t understand what it is to be a real man or a real she-man (like “mashed potatoes” Palin) living off the land in Alaska.
But before the Alaska public or the media ever gets nosy about who actually wiped out the great game herds, Alaska’s State Fish and Game bureaucracy---the Guiding Industry and State officials---are quick on the draw to change the subject…they just pull the old subsistence switcheroo.

Unless you live on Planet Alaska, you’ve spotted the old subsistence switcheroo. The caribou herd on Unimak Island is missing its bulls. The heads and antlers can be found on the walls of the rich sporty-sport types “guided” there by those intrepid Alaskan businessmen and animal parts brokers known today as “guides.” But now, by the magic of the old switch-and-bait conjuring trick, the sacred spell of subsistence makes everything alright. The State shakes its caribou scrotum rattles, beats out a rhythm on empty oil drums and chants its magic subsistence song.

The decision of Judge Holland to keep the State’s helicopters from gunning down wolves on Unimak was a simple issue---the feds actually study things before they send in the gunships. It’s a narrow decision having little to do with resolving predator control issues. Even so, my guess is that the judge would have allowed the aerial wolf kill if the law had permitted. After all, the State said the magic word: “Subsistence.”

No wonder you don’t have to be a real biologist to get those top jobs in Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game anymore---all you need is a commercial, wildlife-killing business and the ability to say “Sub-sis-tence.” Alaskans are suckers for subsistence---a lifestyle which most have never experienced and few understand (see part one of my AK Voices “Wildlife And Wildlands In Alaska“ series for a refresher). However, if you listen to the wildlife-killing establishment, there is no other type of hunting left in Alaska---it’s all subsistence. No more sporty-sport hunting. No more fly-in hunting. No more motor sport. No more road hunting. No more vehicular pursuit. No more legalized poaching. And certainly no more trophy hunting---them guiding services and their air force are all just a simple “subsistence” armada.

The State’s Unimak Island lawsuit against the feds was pure political theater---the State got to stand up to those mean, all-controlling feds. It’s an Alaskan morality play. The State hums the magic word and the media repeats the chant: “Subsistence, yeah-yeah, yeah---the people gotta eat.” Eat them trophy bulls.
Unimak islanders go along with the charade because they get to be called great subsistence hunters and besides, they might even eventually get to bag one or two of those $25,000 caribou. “Twenty-five-grand?“ you say! Sure, and that’s my conservative estimate. All them Fish and Game helio-choppers buzzing around the island don’t come cheap---even if the feds don’t let them shoot nothin‘. Nor do legal suits against the feds come at economy prices. Nor does the cost of freighting in more caribou. Twenty-five grand per eventual “harvested” caribou---at least!
But it’s okay! Because it’s “subsistence.”

The Wildlife Extraction Industry that runs the State’s wildlife management system always manages to leave out one thing when it waves its magic wand of subsistence---how the great game herds got wiped out in the first place. Guide and chairman of the Anchorage Fish and Game Advisory Committee, Aaron Bloomquist, says “State needs to assert itself on predators,” (Anchorage Daily News, Compass, 6-8-10). Mr. Bloomquist implies---but never actually comes out and says---that the great game herds were diminished because we once took a break from shooting wolves from the air. The guides and the motor sportsmen had nothin‘ to do with it! The State sings the same innuendo on Unimak Island. What were the kill rates there again? Ninety caribou bulls killed by guided trophy hunters and maybe 12 caribou killed by locals during the same period? By State standards that is a bona fide, gen-u-wine, subsistence hunt and if we don’t swiftly slaughter some wolves and air-freight in some more caribou bulls there will be starvation among the trophy-hunting/subsistence masses.

It’s a good thing the State never does any actual scientific studies on what really happened because it would be an embarrassing investigation. What the State Department of Fish and Game and Trophy-Hunting never speaks of is how all those moose and caribou herds disappeared. Because people might realize that wolves don’t have getaway vehicles. People might realize that wolves don’t have guns; wolves don’t fly bush planes and float planes; wolves don’t ride around on four-wheelers and “camp out” in motor homes. And wolves most certainly don’t get paid big bucks to haul in rich, sporty-sport types to shoot wild animals. The State and the Guiding Industry that runs our wildlife system never, ever says how the great game herds actually managed to get themselves wiped out.

If the old subsistence switcheroo doesn’t do the trick there is always the old “big bad wolf” conjuring trick and fright mask. That’s where the wildlife extractionists dance around in wolf skins, masquerading as hungry wolves waiting just outside the door to eat innocent kids. Here’s a weird blurb:

Why Are Wolves Sacrosanct? Frank Miniter / Planet Gore / National Review / June 8, 2010
“…Cindy Beamer, general manager of Isanotski Corp., which represents Alaska Native residents in the area, told the Los Angeles Times, ‘the wolves don’t have enough caribou to eat, [and] where the wolves are camping out, [there] now are houses that have little seven- and ten-year-old children.’
“In case you’ve bought the environmentalists’ claim that no wolf has ever killed a person in North America, think again. The most recent example: On March 11, 2010, in Chignik Lake, Alaska, wolves ran down and killed Candice Berner, a 32-year-old teacher.”

Actually, “the most recent example“ is about the only example. But hey, it scares the daylights out of all those “subsistence users” huddled in front of oil stoves all over Alaska. Besides, these Unimak “depend-ons” would rather have the State spend thousands to shoot the few wolves they are too lazy to trap for themselves---or don‘t really need to.

So, it’s all about wilderness creds, fear and sloth. Manly egos, sacred subsistence and slavering, phobic fear. Full bellies and uneasy minds. That, folks, is called wildlife, scientifical, biology-stuff in Alaska. But it’s okay because it’s all “subsistence.”

Rudy Wittshirk


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