Friends of Moose Push for Control of Predators

Eric Mack / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / November 19, 2003

P.J. Simon skimmed over a photocopy of a letter to the editor from Galena elder and former Board of Game member Sidney Huntington that was published in the News-Miner on Jan. 12, 1984.

"He stated 20 years ago that we have to have some kind of control of predators so everybody can harvest moose," Simon said.

Simon was just a teenager when those words were published, but they've become words to live by for the Galena resident. An Athabascan from the Koyukuk River village of Allakaket, he grew up hunting and trapping. After moving to Galena, he spent a few years working on the North Slope before returning to his passion.

"It's a healthy life in the outdoors," says the coordinator of the Galena chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. "I'm an active trapper and I'm proud of it."

Last November, Simon and about 20 other people in Galena gathered for the first meeting of the Friends of Moose, a group of Middle Yukon and Koyukuk River residents who are concerned about the recent decline in moose population in the area, which is world-renowned for moose hunting.

Today, Simon is president of the Friends of Moose and he says the group has grown to a total of 84 members. He arrived for our interview armed with thick books containing studies of moose populations in North America and models for sustainable moose density. He talked about the goals for the group, which seem to fall closely in line with those words that Sidney Huntington wrote 20 years ago.

"We want to boost the moose population for sports hunters and, above all, for subsistence hunters," Simon said.

But Simon pointed out that the group is interested in working through responsible management of game populations. "We're not here to eradicate wolves."

The group of volunteers also works to promote wildlife and outdoors education as well as cultural preservation.

"We want to get the youth involved," Simon said. "We want to teach them about snowmachine safety, outdoor safety--just to get them involved in the outdoors."

Friends of Moose members have worked with students in Galena, including high school students from across the state at the Project Education Residential School. Education is one of the primary goals of the group, which is made up of members from all walks of life, including local elders, biologists, teachers and others.

According to Simon, about half of the members reside in Galena and the other half live in other villages throughout the Interior. The group holds monthly meetings to discuss action items, education, fund raising and other issues.

The primary geographical area of concern for Simon and the Friends of Moose includes the area around Galena in state Game Management Unit 21D and part of Unit 24. He pointed to figures which demonstrate a decline in the moose population in that area since the early 1990s. He said that the decline in the Galena area is not as drastic as in the McGrath area, where high predation has sparked a contentious debate over aerial wolf hunting, and the Friends of Moose want it to stay that way.

The group supports this effort by giving out lightweight wolf traps to local trappers and supporting proposals for the state Board of Game. And, of course, Simon said, education is an important part of the effort.

"We educate the youth, we educate ourselves and we educate the public," he said.

For more information about the Friends of Moose, write to Box 243 Galena, AK 99741.

Eric Mack's column appears Wednesdays in the News-Miner.
He is program manager for Big River Public Broadcasting in Galena.


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