Same-day airborne hunting is wrong

My turn

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

A YES vote on Proposition 6 will restore the ban on same-day airborne wolf hunting that Alaskan's passed overwhelmingly in 1996.

This year, powerful special interests in the state Legislature overturned the people's vote over strong objections from the public, the governor and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Same-day airborne wolf hunting is bad public policy, poor hunting ethics and unsound wildlife management.

Commissioner of Fish and Game Frank Rue stated in the department's position paper, "We know from past experience that the practice leads to other abuses such as chasing wolves to exhaustion, herding wolves, and shooting them from the air."

Gov. Knowles said in his veto message that "to use as a method of state predator control unethical techniques that encourage illegal activity is a throwback to the universally discredited policy of bounties, poison and killing wolf pups."

Given the credible and formidable positions that these statements represent, our opponents have shamefully resorted to the worst sort of misrepresentations, distortions and fear mongering in a desperate effort to win votes against Proposition 6.

First, they say our campaign group, Alaskans for Wildlife, consists of "outside animal-rights extremists." The fact is we are long-time Alaskans - and not one dime in campaign funds has come from animal rights groups outside Alaska. Moreover, our group is the same core group that brought the wolf initiative in 1996. The group membership is as follows:

Lowell Thomas Jr. of Anchorage, former lieutenant governor and bush pilot;

James Thompson, M.D. of Juneau, former chairman of the State Medical Board and mountain climber;

Joel Bennett of Juneau, former member of the Alaska Board of Game and wildlife filmmaker.

Jim Brooks of Auke Bay, former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and avid outdoorsman;

Douglas Pope of Anchorage, former chairman of the Alaska Board of Game, attorney, and outdoor writer;

R.T. "Skip" Wallen of Juneau, former member of the Alaska Board of Game and wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and artist;

John Schoen of Anchorage, former biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, senior scientist with the National Audubon Society, bush pilot, and avid outdoorsman;

Celia Hunter of Fairbanks, 50-year conservation leader, former pilot and outdoorsman;

Paul Joslin of Anchorage, wildlife biologist and executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance;

Richard K. Nelson of Sitka, ethnographer, writer, and avid outdoorsman.

Second, they say legalizing same-day airborne wolf hunting will not result in chasing, herding or harassing wolves. The fact is, there is no efficient way to kill wolves in this manner without harassing them. Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer Al Crane, in affidavits filed in federal court in the Jack Frost case in 1990, said "They chased the hell out of those things. Frost and other pilots herded wolves by plane until the animals were near exhaustion. Then he landed and gunned the animals down with a semi-automatic rifle." Former Gov. Jay Hammond, a veteran bush pilot said, "the method is totally unenforceable. At best it's an offensive approach to hunting wolves; at worst, it tends to make criminals out of the people who do it."

Third, they say the Alaska Department of Fish and Game needs this "game management tool" for the benefit of Alaskans. Not only do they not need it, but it is clear from their position that they don't want it. Under existing law, the state has complete authority to control wolves in areas that the Board of Game has designated, using whatever means deemed appropriate by the commissioner. In fact, a successful program to control wolves by sterilization and relocation has been ongoing for several years in the 40-mile region of the eastern interior.

Finally, our opponents are running a TV ad showing an injured child (presumably from the Icy Bay incident last spring) for the purpose of saying that our children are at risk from wolves everywhere. This Little Red Riding Hood stunt is a bogus and embarrassing effort to stimulate fear in rural Alaska. After an investigation into the Icy Bay incident, the commissioner of Fish and Game said, "this wolf was likely habituated to human food. There were known incidents of feeding wolves in the logging camp and this wolf was seen in the area, where wolves had been fed." In fact, according to that Department, that incident was extremely rare and there are no known cases of people being injured from wolves in Alaska unless they were bitten while feeding wolves or the wolves were rabid. On the other hand, the Alaska Trauma Registry lists 190 Alaskans killed or injured by domestic dogs in the last six years, as well injuries from house cats, horses, moose, and a pig.

Alaskans can send a strong message to the legislature on Nov. 7. It is simply wrong to shoot wolves with the aid of an airplane. We said it before and we'll say it over and over until they listen. Vote Yes on 6.

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