Fact, Not fiction, at Core of Wolf Control Complaints
Opinion / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / April 11, 2004
Alaska Board of Game Chairman Mike Fleagle's complaints (News-Miner, April 2)
about a newspaper advertisement by Defenders of Wildlife on aerial wolf killing
simply don't hold water.
Defenders of Wildlife is a highly credible, science-based national wildlife conservation
organization with an office in Anchorage. We pride ourselves on working closely
with federal and state agencies on important wildlife issues. When appropriate,
we also mobilize the public to respond to scientifically unsound and unethical
wildlife management practices.
It's important to refute Chairman Fleagle's charges specifically--with real facts--but
it's just as important to note the one fact he didn't challenge. Alaskans have
voted, twice, to put a stop to aerial-assisted wolf gunning--something that the
Legislature, the governor and the Board of Game have all now ignored.
Chairman Fleagle claims that our ad is part of a national campaign to raise money.
But nowhere in the Alaska ad do we ask for money. Instead, the ad is an example
of the ways in which we spend money that our members give us to work on issues
like this one. The ad gives Alaskans an opportunity to express directly to Gov.
Murkowski their opposition to the current wolf killing program.
Fleagle also alleges that Defenders provided misinformation on the use of helicopters
for Alaska's aerial wolf killing programs. But at its November 2003 meeting,
the Board of Game amended regulation 5AAC 92.039, changing the word "airplanes" to "aircraft" specifically
to allow for the use of helicopters.
He says we imply moose calf hunting is occurring simultaneously in areas where
predator control is being implemented. That's simply not true--read the ad. What
Fleagle won't tell you is that the area where moose calf hunting is happening
is the very same area where wolf control programs have been in place for at least
five years, which may explain why moose are now overpopulated there and damaging
habitat. Ask any biologist: Shooting calves to knock back overpopulated prey
is the logical result of an unscientific program to wipe out predators.
Chairman Fleagle goes on to say that the board made a technical correction to
a regulation at its recent meeting to provide greater protection for moose calves.
Actually, the language approved by the board lifts the statewide prohibition
on moose calf hunting under regulation 5AAC 92.265. Defenders and others fail
to see how removing this prohibition would provide "greater protection for moose
And contrary to Fleagle's assertion, we never said that hunters in Alaska are
allowed to harvest female bears accompanied by cubs. We stuck to the facts: The
Board of Game approved the killing of bear sows and cubs when they adopted their
Bear Conservation and Management Policy by changing the definition of a "legal" bear.
The policy also lists the trapping of bears, the use of aircraft to kill bears,
the baiting of bears, and the selling of bear parts as additional tools the board
can use to reduce bear populations to increase moose and caribou for hunters.
The facts aren't on the board's side when it comes to the wolf killing program's
scope and duration, either. The program in Unit 19D East (the McGrath area where
Chairman Fleagle resides) has an objective of eliminating all wolves in the area,
not reducing them. The Board of Game has greatly expanded the aerial and land-and-shoot
wolf killing programs to include over 30,000 square miles of Alaska where up
to 500 wolves will be killed. These programs are not "temporary" as claimed and
are expected to last for at least the next four to five years.
Current wolf control plans largely ignore important findings from a comprehensive
National Academy of Sciences study commissioned by the state of Alaska. Many
top scientists from around the nation, including in Alaska, made specific biological
recommendations with respect to implementing predator control in the state. The
Board of Game has ignored this study and even ignored the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game, which opposed some of these programs based upon lack of data or
funding. Instead of science, the board's current programs are based mostly on
the long-discredited notion that wiping out all the predators paves the way to
easy hunting for humans, with moose as plentiful as feedlot cattle.
Deatherage is Alaska Program Associate for Defenders of
Wildlife in Anchorage.
to Current Events 0404]
Song of Alaska, P.O. Box 671670, Chugiak, Alaska 99567-1670
Wolf Song of Alaska.
The Wolf Song of Alaska
Logo, and Web Site Text is copyrighted, registered,
protected, and cannot be used without permission.
Web design and artwork donated by She-Wolf Works and Alaskan artist Maria Talasz
All rights reserved