Howl Over Wolves Misguided

Matt  Tunseth / Kenai Peninsula Clarion / December 7, 2003

Anyone planning to cancel plans for an Alaska vacation next summer because of a proposed boycott by the group Friends of Animals should take time to consider the plight of the black skimmer before skipping the cruise.

The last nesting colony of black skimmers in Chesapeake Bay was recently forced out of the area by an ever-increasing population of mute swans, an invasive species introduced to the Eastern United States in the 19th century. Mute swans are a large, robust bird known for their elegant appearance and notoriously wolfish temperament.

Over the past decade, their population has been increasing so rapidly that state departments of natural resources up and down the eastern seaboard have tried just about everything to get rid of these unwanted, albeit pretty, nuisance birds.

However, their efforts have been stymied by the fact that any plan that involves the most sensible and prudent thing to do ,killing the damn things , has been vigorously opposed by the same group of people currently threatening the economic livelihood of hard-working Alaskans.

On its Web site, Friends of Animals provides some interesting social commentary on the state of Maryland's desire to protect its dwindling populations of native waterfowl.

The group offers a $1,000 bounty for footage of any Maryland "DNR bureaucrats," (I'm guessing this refers to wildlife biologists or game mangers) in the act of harassing or killing mute swans. Here's the FOA Web site's take on the idea of killing invasive species for the purpose of protecting endangered wildlife:

"Apparently the (disputed) harm that other creatures pose toward the environment is punishable by death, but the harm that humans cause is irrelevant; this opinion is what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife bases its decisions upon."

Friends of Animals argues that if it weren't for humans moving into Chesapeake Bay in the first place, the black skimmers wouldn't be in the predicament they're facing today. This argument is made, of course, by a group headquartered in the untamed wilds of Darien, Conn.

Friends goes on to make the claim that, "only humans consistently move beyond the carrying capacity of our land,to the continual detriment of other animals. There is irony in the human urge to dictate other animals' populations when we seem quite unable to manage our own."

Somewhere (other than Chesapeake Bay), I'm sure there's a family of black skimmers having a good cluck at that one.

At this point, you may be wondering what swans, skimmers and animal saviors have to do with Friends' proposed Alaska travel smear.

I tell the story because I think it goes a long way toward demonstrating just what kind of a flock these friends really are.
The travel scare is based on a recent Alaska Board of Game decision to allow the killing of wolves from airplanes for the stated purpose of increasing moose populations near the village of McGrath. The only argument against aerial wolf shooting seems to be that the practice is somehow either cruel or unfair to the wolves. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. After all, trapping wolves, which I'm guessing is a lot less pleasant way to go than a quick death from above, has been legal here all the while, and Friends isn't howling over that.

Why not?

Because aerial wolf killing is juicy. It's a good issue because to an Outsider, it seems like a barbaric, 19th-century style method of dealing with predators.

And as such, it's an issue that's ready-made for anti-meat zealots to do a little grandstanding, spout over-the-top hyperbole and get a nice synthetic feather in their faux-fur caps.
Don't believe me? Priscilla Feral, the ubiquitous president of FOA uses the same term "pogrom" to describe aerial wolf hunting as was originally applied to the systematic slaughter of European Jews.

Friends of Animals is through and through a group whose ultimate aim is to end the killing of animals, whether for sport, subsistence, management or any other purpose.
In order to do so, they need two things: publicity and cash. To get both, they need issues that tug at the hearts and pockets of people who know nothing about wolves, swans or anything else other than what they see on the TV news.

That's why Friends is looking for footage of mute swans being removed from Maryland, and it's why Feral and her pack of PETA-esque pals are attacking Alaska's game management policies and our tourism industry.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who falls for such quack tactics should stay away this summer anyway.

I'd recommend Maryland, but a little birdie told me it's getting rather foul.

Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion

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