his book "Into Thin Air: A True Account of Modern Ascent of Mount Everest," author
Jon Krakauer describes the attempt and the people who make it: "It is an intrinsically
irrational act -- a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would
seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument." Perhaps
animal rights activists, in falling prey (so to speak) to similar irrationality,
mistake their own goal as equally lofty.
Wolf control measures authorized recently by the Alaska Board of Game did not
originate in a vacuum. They were taken in response to long-standing outcries
from hundreds of Alaskans who feel the pain of reduced game populations in areas
historically abundant. For many people, it means the absence of a vital yearly
meat supply, while for others it translates into economic, cultural and even
spiritual loss. The concept of sustained yield, embodied in our constitution,
applies equally to predator and prey and serves to keep the pain of animals and
humans to a minimum. There could hardly be a more sensible goal.
Predator and prey populations in nature can swing wildly from abundance to extinction.
Wildlife biologists know that a certain ratio must be maintained to assure sustained
yield. There is nothing negative or artificial about healthy, ongoing populations
of both. But assuring this means setting limits on the taking of prey species.
Man must accept season and harvest restrictions. And predators must be kept to
a scientifically determined level. That level is currently being heavily exceeded
in critical areas such as McGrath and Game Management Unit 13.
We should be aware by now that groups such as Friends of Animals are not interested
in a rational or sensible solution to our problems. Their focus is not on the
pain of Alaska's people but on that which they perceive we inflict on the noble
and sentient wolf. Even if they could witness a pack of wolves dragging down
and consuming a moose calf, they would not view it as harshly as our defensive
tactics for others like it. Because to them, man is not a part of the natural
order, but rather a destroyer of it.
Setting aside accusations, true or otherwise, that principal organizers of such
groups are only in it for money or kicks and the rank-and-file are just dupes,
most Alaskans should be troubled at being characterized as destroyers. Because
generally we enjoy a close and abiding connection with our land. We may differ
on the particulars of how best to enjoy or preserve it, but we feel very much
a part of it. The injustice of an economic boycott based on misperceptions about
our character and values must be opposed. A wolf is no more sentient or noble
than a rat. Logic dictates that in dealing with destructive infestation of either,
we should place the well-being of man at least on par with their own. The fact
that they are only following natural instincts does not make thinning them out
The creation of an artificial higher moral ground, by largely unaffected "cause
addicts" in their opposition to sensible game management, shows supreme arrogance.
This higher plan is formed by twisting sound wildlife science into something
shameful. Its use in influencing national sentiment against our struggle to maintain
cherished lifestyles is unconscionable. And to be painted as a Neanderthal for
wanting this lifestyle is an outrage.
We have bowed to delicate sensibilities by eschewing effective management tools
such as poisons and helicopters. We have stressed reducing only, not eliminating
wolves. But we can never fully placate zealotry and we should not try. We can
clarify our national image by showing we care about our wildlife, each other
and all who come as visitors. We can ease any burden imposed on our tourism industry
with our support and dollars. And we can thank our governor and all others who,
on our behalf, must stand on the front line and attempt to reason with those
beyond reason's sway.
Timothy Shine lives in the Matanuska Valley and is an advocate for a personal
use classification of fish and game resources.