The Truth Behind Alaska's Wolf Kill Program

Vivian Singer-Ferris / Executive Director / Kerwood Wolf Education Centre Inc./ December 20, 2003

Aerial Wolf Slaughter

The "reasoning" behind Alaska's reinstated aerial wolf kill program, according to the governor and his board of game, is that McGrath residents (population 470) are going hungry - the area's wolves, supposedly, are gobbling up moose before townspeople have had a chance to kill and eat them themselves. Aside from the ethical considerations concerning this viewpoint, that humans, as a "superior" species must put their own convenience and needs before that of animals in their area - animals that existed in that area long before man and, according to the laws of nature, kill and eat only to survive - let's look closely at the other facts. Let's even pretend for a moment there is nothing wrong with this human-centric outlook. Is the current aerial wolf "control" program merely about eliminating 45 or so McGrath area wolves? What's all the fuss really about?

Superior Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason, in her recent dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Friends Of Animals and other plaintiffs to stop the aerial wolf kills, has set a dangerous precedent in a land that is already a hell hole for wolves, with unrestricted hunting and trapping killing thousands each year. Gleason's ruling is a nightmare for Alaska wolves and wolf advocates, setting a dangerous precedent for continued barbaric wolf hunting in that state. Because the government's aerial hunting plan has been declared legal, officials may now also go ahead with phases two and three of their planned formal wolf control program, and also, with any new wolf control programs as they deem fit.

In her 14-page ruling, Gleason found no legal justification to postpone the aerial wolf hunts. She wrote that the Board of Game acted within the framework of legislation amended earlier this year. She noted that the Board of Game had the authority to approve the aerial wolf kill program because the language in the bill was changed to delete the more specific phrase "prey population objectives" and replace it with "objectives," as in harvest objectives. This means that the game board legally based its decision on whether harvest objectives for the McGrath area were being met by local residents. Gleason stated that despite the complex and emotional nature of wolf control, especially when it involves the shooting of wolves from airplanes, her role was not to decide whether or not Alaska should have an aerial wolf control program, but to determine if the Board of Game acted legally in establishing it.

So, killing entire packs of wolves - the parents, the pups, aunts, uncles and other distant relatives in the family is now, if not ethically or morally correct, legal. Even more unfortunately for the wolves, their deaths are not often swift and "humane." Many lie injured, floundering in the snow until the gunners are able to finish them off - if they haven't made cover and are forced to die slow agonizing deaths instead. If pups get away, confused and frightened, they don't live long enough to recover from the shock of seeing their parents and family massacred before their eyes. But they don't die quickly or easily either. Without their family to feed them and support them physically and emotionally in the cold, they starve. And adults, even if some escape, often cannot fend for themselves either in the harsh weather that's common in Alaska. It takes an entire pack to pull down big game and smaller prey animals, over the long run, don't do much to aid survival. So even the few scatterings of wolves, or lone wolves, that survive face a horrific death. Aerial wolf "control" is as far from "euthanasia" as you can get.

The first phase of Alaska's aerial wolf "control" is McGrath, not as small an area as many think. The wolf kill in that region actually encompasses 1,720 square miles and the hunt is not a one-time thing either. It will continue every winter for a number of years, to ensure that new wolves entering the territory are eliminated. Planes, apparently unavailable to fly in food for the residents of McGrath, are certainly available to kill the area's natural and much-needed predators so that townspeople will not have to compete with them for food, as they are claiming they do. This very statement and attitude is ridiculous, with evidence clearly showing otherwise. Government records clearly show that the moose populations around McGrath are actually increasing, not decreasing as residents claim. Yet, Governor Murkowski chooses to ignore these facts, basing his wolf kill program instead on merely the number of moose "harvests" reported by McGrath hunters who claim these are nowhere near enough. Governor Murkowski and his board of game are steadfast in their refusal to take unreported McGrath moose kills into account. They repeatedly refuse to look at studies and evidence in their own state that in areas where there are moose and wolves but no humans, the delicate balance of nature is kept in check - naturally. If in fact McGrath area moose are too scarce, this is a result of humans' over-hunting, not over-hunting by the wolves. Yet, history repeats itself. Wolves are blamed for the "overkill" by humans and are being killed barbarically as a result.

And McGrath is only the first phase of this carefully planned wolf massacre. The second phase of Governor Murskowski's formal wolf "control" program is slated to begin in January or February of next year and will target up to 150 wolves (the estimated total population in the area). It encompasses 7,800 square miles just southeast of Denali National Park. Over the past three winters alone, at least 640 wolves were killed within the area by private hunters and trappers, often using snowmobiles. When the third phase of Alaska's aerial wolf kill program is authorized later this winter it will cover an area of 6,000 to 8,000 square miles about 50 miles northwest of Anchorage. All of the aerial hunts will continue for a number of years, until all wolves in those areas are eliminated.

Those in favor of the aerial wolf hunts have been quoted as not understanding what all the fuss is about - why do people care about the 45 or so wolves being murdered around McGrath? Every wolf death is murder. The slaughter begins with 45 but will not end there. Alaska's reinstated aerial wolf hunts have set a dangerous precedent, making it easier to eliminate even more wolves than usual, in a state which is already a hell hole for wolves to begin with. Between 1996 and 2002 alone, more than 7,000 wolves were killed via hunting and trapping, possibly even twice that number according to the Alaska' Department of Fish and Game's "harvest" summary. Excessive hunting and trapping have resulted in the deaths of nearly 7,500 wolves in the past five years alone.

Where does it stop? When will it end?

Please join the growing voice and protest at least these aerial wolf kills, deemed by even seasoned hunters to be "unsportsmanlike," "not a fair kill" but  nothing short of "slaughter."

Please check out the other Alaska sections of our website to find out how you can help. If you haven't as yet, please start by signing our petition against this atrocity.

Stop the Aerial Slaughter of Alaska's Wolves!

Vivian Singer-Ferris
Executive Director Kerwood Wolf Education Centre Inc.

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