Wolf Song of Alaska News

Animal Counts

Letters / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / June 8, 2010

Reader Commentshttp://newsminer.com/view/full_story/7821572/article-Animal-counts?instance=letters_to_ed

To the editor:

Craig Compeau’s recent letter complained that “feds” are trying to control what “Alaskan’s can or cannot put in their freezer for survival.” In fact, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is carrying out its mandate in managing a National Wildlife Refuge on Unimak Island. USF&W determined Alaska Fish and Game may not initiate the first ever killing of wolves from airplanes on the refuge without a permit. Sound science demonstrating the emergency and the cause(s) must back up the plan. ADF&G reacted. They sued for an emergency wolf hunt to “save the caribou herd.”

ADF&G’s press release implies subsistence requires emergency action. Nowhere does it mention sparing bears, the other major predators on the island. Could they be saving the bears for lucrative trophy hunts? The Board of Game is heavily influenced by the mostly non-resident trophy hunting industry. Sean Parnell is politically beholden to these interests, so the trophy hunting sector gets the best deal. That could explain the fact that from 2000 to 2008 subsistence hunters took only about 12 animals from the Unimak herd while trophy hunters took 90. In an election year, this has become a subsistence issue, though ADF&G has been aware of this imbalance for almost a decade.

The press release further notes:“The Unimak Caribou herd has declined from more than 1,200 animals in 2002 with 54 bulls per 100 cows, to approximately 400 this year, with 5 bulls per 100 cows, the lowest bull:cow ratio on record of any caribou herd in Alaska. At that level, most cows in the herd are unable to successfully breed and don’t produce calves.”Hmm! I wonder if ADF&G’s lucrative trophy hunts have anything to do with the decline of the best caribou bulls?

Instead of jumping to an emergency again, ADF&G should embrace scientific investigation. Get a reasonably accurate wolf count; obtain related impacts including climate warming on grazing lands, migration, health of calves, given the older age of bulls, and additional predators on calves. Know actual causes before shooting wolves and allowing slow starvation of orphaned pups in their dens.

Patricia O’Brien, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Juneau

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