My Turn: Kenai wolves don't deserve this

In a disturbing and ominous December 2016 proposal, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) asked permission from the Board of Game (BOG) to exterminate every wolf in over a thousand square miles of Game Unit 15C. This encompasses a huge part of the Keni Peninsula.

Over the last decade, these two entities have opened up a massive industrial-scale killing program on wolves and bears, killing over 600 wolves in the Upper Tanana-Yukon flats region alone. With, I might add, little moose and caribou increase. The main tool is helicopter gunning, but also includes huge expanded hunting seasons and bag limits on these two animals. The most horrible is the legalized selling of body parts to the Asian markets.

Only in the last few years have Alaskans begun to realize the horror that has been taking place. The BOG-sanctioned killing of Denali’s iconic wolves and bears has become the symbol of the senseless war on predators.

The great irony of course is that Alaska’s economy is in the toilet and tourism is one of the few bright spots. People come to Alaska from around the world in part because it is one of the last places on the planet where they have a chance to see wild wolves and bears. For God’s sake, we even have a grizzly bear on our license plates.

Alaska’s Constitution says that the fish and wildlife belong to all Alaskans, but the BOG has seven members, all hunters and/or trappers. There isn’t even a token conservationist or non-consumptive user on the board. ADF&G claims that it cares about all Alaskan voices, but it has carried out this backward and highly controversial assault on apex predators, who are critical to the ecosystem. The BOG and ADF&G have assured the public repeatedly that they care about wolves, that there is not a war on wolves, and that they can represent the 85 percent of the citizens who don’t have hunting licenses.

Actions speak louder than words and this new extreme proposal to totally exterminate all the wolves from this huge area exposes both their lies and their agenda. Even the local Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee, made up of hunters, voted unanimously to oppose this wolf genocide. And in a related and similar action there was a push by the state in 2012 to kill off Kenai wolves, but in regional hearings the local residents rose up and told the state to back off. The wolves were saved. But this time, guess what, the BOG meeting where the fate of unit 15C’s entire wolf population will be decided is set for January in Bethel. So few, if any, Kenai residents will even be able to attend.

The killing of Africa’s elephants, lions and cheetahs is universally condemned and much is written about it. The killing of Cecil the lion in July of 2015 was the number one news story in the world for two days. Here in Alaska, there is a general feeling among citizens that our wildlife agencies are honest brokers between the user groups, serve as a check on over-hunting, and will make sure all species are protected. Sorry to break the news folks, but we have a small minority of anti-wolf thinkers that want to turn Alaska into a moose and caribou ranch — and they are in complete control of our wildlife. Make no mistake about it, Alaska is the nation’s last significant stand of wolves. There are only somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 left in Alaska, just a tiny fraction of Africa’s lions and elephants. So when you look at the lack of any balance on the BOG, the extreme anti-wolf and bear agenda that we have been witnessing, combined with the endless clamor by hunters for more moose and caribou, it looks bleak for our wonderful bears and wolves. If those who care about these iconic animals don’t begin to speak up, we are going to witness the slow and steady decline of one of the things that makes Alaska great.

• Sean McGuire lives in Fairbanks.

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