The Daily News Miner's Nov. 7, 2004 editorial (A howlin' good time) clearly illustrates how seriously Alaskans are misled about the current rash of aircraft-assisted wolf-shooting programs.
As an animal advocacy group that represents hundreds of Alaska members, Friends of Animals holds the interest and right to express our views about the ethics and treatment of wolves and other free-living animals, and to condemn aerial shotgunning as a morally corrupt act regardless of who pumps the bullets.
Times have changed; ideas have evolved. A civilized society abandons violent, ignorant wolf persecution campaigns as shameful conduct. Jon Coleman, author of the new book Vicious: Wolves And Men In America explains, wolf-haters seek mementos of power, a stockpile of masculine totems, guns, skins, and their victims' heads helped a small man feel big.
The unlawful wolf-killings that prompted the criminal charges imposed on one of three hunter-pilot teams permitted by the state to shoot wolves near McGrath is utterly predictable. Permit-holders may well view the shooting opportunity as open-ended, and go anywhere to kill wolves. It's lucky that David Haeg and Tony Zellers were caught.
The Daily News-Miner's editorial skips the facts about the McGrath wolf-control program. Originally, the McGrath area included 1,700 square miles. Wolf killers couldn't find any wolves in this area despite Alaska's Department of Fish & Game's (ADF&G's) assurances that the area contained too many wolves, so ADF&G expanded the control area to provide wolves to kill.
The Board of Game regulation that authorized the McGrath program allows the aerial killing of every last wolf that can be found in this 3,000 square mile area, for an unspecified number of winters. This regulation requires only that 20 wolves be left alive in the entirety of 8,500 square-mile GMU 19D east, which includes the 3,000 square-mile control area. Thus it is accurate for Friends of Animals to have said that the state intends to annihilate the wolves within the 3,000 square mile McGrath control area. Contrary to the News-Miner's editorial that several dozen wolves would be left in the 3,000 square mile control area following aerial wolf-shooting, there is no such requirement.
Moreover, under the McGrath adaptive management plan, the state will assist trappers and hunters to keep wolves suppressed in the control area each winter, after the formal control program ends. New wolves will colonize the region year-to-year, dispersing from near and distant areas into the vacancies created each winter in the wolf-control area.
It's likely that far more than 50 wolves will be shot during the life of the McGrath control program. And there will be many more wolf deaths in the other formal and de facto control areas.
The arguments advanced by wolf control proponents and their government apologists, don't prove that there are low moose numbers - these claims would not survive a quality scientific, let alone ethical, review. Scrutiny is absent because of the inherent prejudice of the decision-making Board of Game that favors the savagery of pumping wolves full of bullets to rid the land of sentient animals they're bent on dominating with vicious determination.
The latest wolf control program to be authorized for the Fortymile region may illustrate better than any others the state's dishonesty. From 1997 - 2001, the state completed a so-called non-lethal wolf control program in that region in which wolves were sterilized and relocated. The promotions surrounding that effort promised that if caribou numbers increased to the specified objective, wolf numbers would be allowed to not only recover but increase above their pre-control level. Fat chance. Although caribou numbers have increased beyond the objective (more likely in spite of than because of the control effort), the state is reneging on its promise and is replacing it with yet another aerial control program.
Friends of Animals will continue to challenge the legality of Alaska's aerial wolf-control programs in court this year, and we're running ads and organizing a new series of Howl-In protests around the country and internationally to activate a broad-based coalition of people who respect free-living wolves. Together we pledge to boycott summer travel to Alaska until the state evolves ethically, and the aerial shot-gunning of wolves ends.
Priscilla Feral is president of Friends of Animals, which is based in Darien, Conn.