Studies Indicate that Eliminating Wolves Hurts Browsers and Plants

Letters to the editor / Anchorage Daily News / March 6, 2004

I agree with Vic Van Ballenberghe's piece "Wolf debates subject to distortion" (March 3). Supporters of both sides of the issue, whether intentional or not, often use distorted facts to support their views. I was raised by an avid hunter and outdoorsman. What concerns me is not that predator control is being implemented but that biologically unsound management practices are being used by the Board of Game.

Two studies recently completed by Oregon State University in Yellowstone National Park revealed that wolves improved the health of plants by limiting overbrowsing by elk. If this hypothesis holds true, it would confirm that when the top predator is removed from the ecosystem, other parts of the food web decline, thereby negatively impacting ungulate populations.

I find it ironic that the board's singular focus on eradicating or moving predators may fail by negatively impacting the very critter they want to enhance -- moose! Wolf and bear impacts on habitat must be understood and considered. Imagine the constructive effects bears have on plants through their constant foraging and digging. What Alaskan hasn't seen bear poop filled with seeds? Without healthy browse, you won't have a healthy moose population.

To improve management of Alaska's wildlife, please call your legislator and offer support for SB 343, a bill that creates a balanced Board of Wildlife.

-- Beth Verrelli / Anchorage

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