A recent online issue of Alaska Magazine ran a poll asking whether predator control was a good idea or a bad idea. About 80 percent of the participants opposed predator control.
Some of the state's reasons for the use of predator control are to increase ungulate populations for subsistence hunters, to increase non-resident hunter revenue and to increase the harvest of big game in Alaska.
Here are the facts. This year the ADF&G will spend almost $4,000,000 on its intensive game management program. The amount of money being spent on this program has increased year by year. Here are the results of this continuous increase in the spending of Alaska's money.
1. Big game tag revenues are down 39 percent over the past 10 years.
2. Non-resident hunting license revenues are down 29 percent over the past 10 years.
3. Resident hunting license sales are down 8 percent over the past 10 years.
It is also a fact that only 20 percent of Alaskans have hunting licenses and only 4 percent of Alaskans are bush subsistence hunters. Other than that small number of bush subsistence hunters, the majority of Alaskan hunters are urban hunters who do not need to rely on game for food.
Traditional bush subsistence hunters should have preference to game animals. It is obvious that if the state simply stops allowing urban and non-resident hunters to hunt in areas where ADF&G says we need predator control, the ungulate populations would quickly rebound. As a result, we could save millions of dollars by just stopping intensive game management, a program that is arguably ineffective, and a program that is giving all Alaskans a black eye while damaging our state's tourism industry.
We must also examine hunting in Alaska from an economic point of view. The 2006 Department of Interior report states that the total of all revenue from hunting in Alaska was $121,000,000. The same report stated that the total revenue from wildlife viewing in Alaska was $581,000,000 - roughly 5 times that of hunting. Also, wildlife viewing is increasing nationally as well as in Alaska by 6 to 10 percent a year; meanwhile, we can see the decline in hunting in Alaska (shown above), which is similar to the national decline.
As for the biology used in justifying intensive game management, many non-ADF&G biologists have stated and continue to state that the current system is seriously flawed and ineffective. Yes, there are a few who think that predator control is working, but there are also a few who think the world is flat.
The days of gassing pups and shooting wolves from the air must stop in Alaska. Such out-of-date practices hurt our reputation as a state and hurt our economy as well. Also, the recent shooting of the collared wolves in Yukon-Charley makes it questionable whether or not ADF&G can be trusted to implement a control program responsibly.
If the state of Alaska focuses on the growing business of wildlife viewing, we can easily develop that business to over a billion dollars annually and provide employment for over 2500 Alaskans while preserving our state's valuable resources for future generations. This can be done responsibly in order to keep Alaska wild.
Given the numerous biological, ethical, practical, and financial positions opposing intensive game management practices, there is no clear reason to continue the use of extreme predator control measures other than to provide wildlife game farms for a minority of resident and non-resident hunters.
Greg R. Brown is a Juneau resident.
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