In the summer of 2001 I had the opportunity to move from Indiana to a village within "Bush" Alaska, as my husband and I had accepted positions with the Alaska Commercial Co. Families in the Bush well recognize A.C.C. as a historic retail company that survives in many of the Native villages and outer regions, providing groceries, hardware, clothing and many other much-needed essentials, including hunting and fishing licenses. During our time in this village we sold a surprising number of hunting licenses to out-of-state residents. Sport hunters from the Lower 48 came up in droves. Within this hunting season there were at least two decapitated moose carcasses (that I knew of) reported to the state officers. Heads taken as trophies for walls and meat prized by locals left to rot where it lay.
While living in the Bush I had the privilege to befriend many of the local residents and listen to their opinions. One evening we were invited to hike with a local man. We talked and asked many questions about living in such a wild and beautiful place. We asked his opinion about the hunters that came to this region. He replied with the simple wisdom of one who had been allowed to observe for many years saying "Cabella Cowboys" fly in every year looking to kill only the biggest and strongest of the animals they hunt. They often leave the meat (or not) and fly home. "You see taking the best of the our herds leaves the cows to breed with inferior bulls. Our herds grow weaker and then smaller year after year." As the moose and caribou have long been a source of food for his community, he compared this practice to flying to Texas or Montana, trespassing a rancher's spread only to kill his prize bull. It was his wish the out-of-state hunters be banned from the subsistence-dependent territories, and the wolves left to weed out the sick and smaller moose, thereby allowing the herds to again grow stronger. This is the insight that has been known and practiced by those who have survived in balance with the nature of Alaska for thousands of years.
I believe the decline of the moose is not the fault of the wolves, but of the hunters that continue to visit this wild land only to kill its very essence. They are the ones needing to be managed and regulated. It takes a man of strength and intelligence to understand that not everything needs to be pounded, cut, shot, drilled, dug up or controlled. Nature, when left untouched and uninfluenced, will reach its own state of balance and perfection.
Leslie A. Crandall