Narrow-minded Game Board Believes the Only Good Wolf is a Dead Wolf
The Alaska Board of Game has been busy, busy, busy.

Mike Doogan / Comment / Anchorage Daily News / March 21, 2003


Last week, the board, composed entirely of hunters, authorized killing or relocating bears and wolves near McGrath. It voted for killing wolves in the Nelchina Basin. It approved killing wolves across the Inlet.

The board's policy toward wolves is this: If you whistle at a pretty girl on the street, you'll be gunned down.

In some cases, the board wants to allow so-called land-and-shoot hunting. This is described as spotting animals from the air, landing and shooting them. In practice, it is usually spotting animals from the air, shooting them and landing.

Either way, it is about as sporting as setting out garbage, waiting for a bear to come to eat it and shooting the bear.

Oops, wait a minute. The Game Board made that legal here a long time ago.

Land-and-shoot hunting isn't legal, though. It was outlawed by the voters. The Legislature, in the grips of the same sort of people as now populate the Game Board, made it legal again. It was outlawed once again by the voters.

The board is trying to get around this by saying that land-and-shoot hunting isn't really hunting. It's predator control, and the initiative left a loophole for predator control.

Well, what can you expect? Several members of this board were appointed by a governor who claims that when he said "no taxes" he meant "no income tax" and that the motor fuels tax isn't a tax, it's a user fee.

You are never going to understand the Murkowski administration unless, like the Red Queen, you can believe a dozen impossible things before breakfast. The Game Board is particularly prone to nonsense because it only represents a minority of Alaskans, those who hunt.

Hunters don't agree on everything, but they do share a view of the world that divides wild animals into prey, which exist to be killed by them, and predators, which compete for prey.

So whenever the number of prey animals dips, their response is to want to kill predators. In their simple-minded view of the world, all that counts is that fewer wolves will mean more moose for them.

Nature is actually a lot more complex than that. But even a group as august as the Game Board can't control the weather, or the amount of food or the effects of disease.

So they try to manage what they can. And, to give them their due, over the short term, in the absence of bad weather, food shortage or contagious disease, fewer wolves should mean more moose for humans to kill.

Now, hunters and trappers can kill wolves in most of Alaska already. But it's hard work and, apparently, the modern Alaska hunter or trapper isn't up for hard work. So the Game Board wants the state to make killing wolves easier, or to simply do the work for the hunters.

This, of course, makes the whole thing political. Hunters want to argue that decisions about wildlife should be made on a scientific basis alone. But there is no scientific way to assess the value of a wolf against the value of a moose, or compute the humaneness of a hunting method.

The decision to kill wolves in the hopes that hunters will able to kill more moose is a political one, made strictly on behalf of hunters.

Alaskans might accept such decisions if the deck wasn't stacked. But it is. For years, the Legislature refused to confirm Game Board appointees who were not hunters. When his turn came, Gov. Frank Murkowski didn't even try. In fact, he appointed some of the most narrow-minded and doctrinaire hunting advocates ever. Men like Ron Somerville, Pete Buist, Ted Spraker and Mike Fleagle don't recognize that values other than their own even exist, let alone take them into account when making decisions.

But beyond the small, special-interest political world of the Game Board, there is a larger political world. In that world, wolves have both an emotional value and a real economic value.

By ignoring these values, by belittling them, the Game Board makes itself irrelevant. The voters make the rules for hunting, as many times as is necessary. And the question of predator control is settled by how severe the reaction is. Even Frank Murkowski, a hunter himself and no deep thinker, will be unable to support wolf killing if the tourism boycott that is sure to come is intense enough.

Mike Doogan's opinion column appears each Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at 907-257-4350 or

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