Wolf 'Control' in Alaska
New York Times / Editorial / March 14, 2004
Alaska, the wolf wars have taken a sobering turn for
the worse. For 30 years hunting lobbyists have campaigned
for what is euphemistically called wolf "control." Thanks
to the compliance of Gov. Frank Murkowski and the state's
official game board, the legal protections for Alaska's
7,000 to 9,000 wolves have been seriously eroded. In
nearly 20,000 square miles of the state it is now legal
for private citizens to shoot wolves from airplanes and
helicopters. In one district the limit has been increased
from 10 wolves a year to 10 wolves a day.
In these districts, the new regulations call for an 80 percent "temporary" reduction
in the wolf population. But a reduction on that scale is merely likely to be
the first step towards the total elimination of wolves. This isn't sport hunting
- there's nothing sporting about deploying an air force to hunt animals. The
real spirit of hunting has always been about working within the balance of nature.
But not in Alaska.
There is already a hunting and trapping season for Alaskan wolves, and some 7,500
wolves have been legally killed in the past five years. But hunters want more
moose meat on the table, and the state has promised them unnaturally high numbers.
Instead of setting sustainable limits for the moose hunt, the game board has
decided simply to kill the animals that prey on moose - wolves and bears. According
to the game
board, "moose are important for providing high levels of harvest for human consumptive
use." In other words, moose are important, wolves are not.
Wildlife biologists disagree, and so do most Alaskans, who have voted against
aerial shooting twice, in 1996 and 2000. But now the extremists have taken over.
Any notion that wolves and moose are part of a functioning ecosystem has been
abandoned. The hunting lobby demands that moose be managed as livestock destined
for harvesting by hunters - the more the merrier, with anything that gets in
the way destined for destruction. In Alaska, wolves are now merely competitors
seizing valuable human resources.
Elsewhere in this country, biologists have devoted themselves to protecting and
restoring wolf populations. Most Americans have welcomed wolves' return not only
as symbols of wildness but as critical players in the pattern of nature, helping
balance the population of deer and elk. Anyone who has visited Yellowstone since
wolves were reintroduced has a vivid sense of their role in the ecosystem and
in the human imagination. But in Alaska the age-old war on wolves has resumed
with all its age-old savagery - the savagery of humans, that is.
-- The New York Times Company
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