Alaska editorial: Fairbanks stands by wolf control program

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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This past winter our friends at Friends of Animals ran full-page newspaper ads that said something to the effect that shooting wolves to save moose and then shooting the moose was crazy. Apparently we're absolutely nuts, because we support the Alaska Board of Game decision that continued five existing wolf control programs in different parts of our state - and markedly expanded the one in the eastern Interior.

Ads and court challenges from Friends likely will continue given this decision. They're from Connecticut, after all, a state roughly the size of the Fairbanks North Star Borough but home to nearly 40 times our population. Nothing crazy about living there; 3.2 million people can't be wrong.

The rhetoric likely will continue about pilot-gunners chasing wolves to exhaustion and simply slaughtering them from their aerial vantage point. Alaska's wolf slaughter, indeed.

If wolf control has accomplished anything in the past three years, it surely has disproved the "Alaska wolf slaughter" rhetoric. In only one area in three years has the goal of reducing the wolf population, temporarily, by 80 percent, been achieved.

Pilot-gunner teams have taken just over 550 wolves from the population over the course of three years. The goal for this year alone was 400 but aerial effort didn't even come close.

Despite the questionable performance, aerial wolf control is worth the effort. It is worth giving the opportunity to those individuals willing - and wanting - to take the risk and incur the expense to fly their airplanes in search of wolves.

Their efforts can help tip the balance in favor of moose and caribou populations that may be unnecessarily depressed. The exercise is nothing more, and nothing less than that. It is a tool, and its success and effectiveness is enhanced or depressed by dozens of factors. With any luck at all state biologists will, after some years, fully document the relative effectiveness of the program over time.

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