Ever since Priscilla Feral launched a boycott of Alaskan tourism in 1994, her
name has been mud with an iceberg-sized chunk of that state's
Not that it bothers the Rowayton resident and long-time president of and chief spokeswoman for Darien-based Friends of Animals, who takes a certain amount of pride in calling herself "the punching bag of Alaskan talk radio."
Feral is well known in Connecticut as a tenacious and vociferous animal rights activist who has protested everything from pig races in Derby to the thinning of deer herds in Greenwich.
The Alaskan tourism boycott, which Feral says has so far cost Alaska $100 million in bookings, is in protest of the state's policy of allowing people to shoot wolves from helicopters and airplanes, a practice Feral likens to "a video game." Friends of Animals also annoys some Alaskans by organizing mass protests called "Howl-Ins" of the wolf-killing policies.
Feral is no fan of Alaska's current governor, Republican Frank Murkowski, calling his wildlife policies "draconian."
The talk radio hosts rarely miss an opportunity to characterize Feral as an "outsider" and "meddler," while hunters who call in usually draw on terms unsuitable in a family newspaper.
Talk radio is not the only Alaskan media taking pot shots at Feral. In February, the News-Miner in Fairbanks carried an editorial entitled "Oh, please Priscilla" that charged that the Friends' efforts to stop the state's wolf control program were "futile." The editorial said Feral failed to rally the Alaskan public to the cause and therefore was forced to sue state wildlife officials. (The suit is scheduled to go to trial in May.)
Not one to let such attacks pass without rejoinder, Feral fired back, saying Murkowski had received "hundreds of thousands of negative comments" on aerial wolf shooting. "Me thinks the News-Miner has an attitudinal ax to grind that overrides facts," she wrote.
The latest collision between Feral and Alaska's hunters and wildlife establishment involves an injured female wolf that is hanging around the small village of Evansville on the Dalton Highway 200 miles north of Fairbanks. A few village residents have fed the wolf, an act that is illegal under Alaskan law. Evansville is a cluster of 15 homes, called "a suburb" of the nearby metropolis (20 houses and a store) of Beetle.
Fearing the wolf might injure someone, wildlife officials at first wanted to shoot it. But an Evansville woman, Wyoma Knight, a member of the Inubec tribe, knowing of Friends of Animals' opposition on wolf killing programs, alerted Feral to the animal's plight. Feral offered to have Friends of Animals pay the expense of having the wolf trapped and transported to a wolf sanctuary in Washington state.
By last Saturday, the story was front-page news in the News-Miner. And the radio talk shows were buzzing again.
Monday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that it would not permit the wolf to leave the state, but neither would it order it shot.
Wednesday, Knight said the wolf was still in Evansville, but she feared it would soon be shot by a local hunter or again caught in a trap. Feral was none too happy with the decision either. "It's just mean spirited," she told a reporter. "The nicest thing to do for an animal that can't get food for itself would be to offer it sanctuary."
By Wednesday, the wolf story had been pushed off the News-Miner's front page by a story about a man who found a 7-foot grizzly bear hibernating in his restaurant.
Charles Walsh's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can reach him by phone at 330-6217 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.