Alaska editorial: Killing wolf pups undermines state's reputation in world

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alaska has a long-standing rule against going into wolf dens to kill pups - and for good reason. To most people, it seems inhumane for humans to kill utterly defenseless creatures. The rest of the world does not look kindly on a state that permits such a gruesome practice.

But this spring, state Fish and Game biologists found wolf pups in their dens on the Alaska Peninsula and killed them.

It was part of a state wolf-extermination effort designed to help a shrinking caribou herd where few calves were surviving each year. The pups' parents had already been killed, so a state crew dispatched the pups as well.

Fish and Game initially tried to hush up the incident. Officials knew it would be unpopular and did their best to keep it quiet.

But Fish and Game officials eventually fessed up. As they feared, a public outcry resulted.

Critics pointed out that killing pups in their den is prohibited by the department's own regulations.

No matter, according to the Department of Law. It said the game board waived the ban when it authorized taking all wolves from the predator control area on the Alaska Peninsula.

How convenient: The game board is free to override its own regulations whenever it wants to.

This case is just one more example of the board's bias toward those who want to shoot wildlife instead of watching it. Alaska's wildlife belongs to all Alaskans, not just hunters, but you wouldn't know it from watching the game board. Less than one in five Alaskans has a hunting or trapping license, but hunters or trappers hold every board seat.

This month, during a state board of game meeting, state Fish and Game Department officials tried to calm the outcry, saying they would try in the future to avoid killing wolf pups.

The statements by Doug Larsen, the state director of Wildlife Conservation, didn't go nearly far enough.

Larsen said next time Fish and Game hopes to avoid the problem altogether by conducting wolf control efforts outside of the pupping season. If, for some reason, pups are orphaned, the department has made a commitment to try to find homes for them in zoos or elsewhere.

But if homes can't be found, the department still plans to kill the pups. If the department allows itself to get into that situation, Alaska will get yet another well-deserved black eye.

Instead of maneuvering so they can ignore their own ban on killing wolf pups in their dens, state wildlife managers should figure out how to comply with it.

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