Posted by: shannynmoore | September 23, 2008

Wolf in Governor’s Clothing…

The smell of fresh snow and the burning fuel of a Ski-Doo Olympic Snowmachine are part of my vivid childhood memories. I would hang on to my pop’s snowsuit, as we rode through Alaskan muskegs, down river banks, and up power line trails. Checking our trap line was dirty work. Bait consisted of freezer burnt salmon and road kill rabbit retrieval missions. I grew up with the smell of skinned mink, beaver, muskrats, coyotes, and wolves in my garage. We took the hides to the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage and sold them. Staying in a hotel with plumbing and television was our decadent reward. I learned more about nature from trapping and hunting than I did from any biology class. Habits, tracking, instincts; I was in awe of the Nature around me and then I helped kill it. It wasn’t easy. Mink are smart as white collar thieves. They could get bait out of a trap nine times out of ten, and defecate before departing, a not-so-subtle message to Pop and I.

 

I don’t write these things to brag, just as fact. You may be revolted by this lifestyle, and I won’t argue. I share this to provide you the reference of my horror of aerial wolf hunting. Shooting wolves from planes is to hunting, what hiring a prostitute is to dating.

 

Alaska has a long history of bounties and hunting-much of it controversial. Aerial wolf hunting began in 1948. In 1972, Congress passed a law that prohibited aerial wolf hunting. Problem solved? No, under the guise of “wolf control,” permits were issued to “pilot gunner” teams in 1979. In 1992, under Governor Walter Hickel’s Administration, the Alaska Board of Game initiated a wolf control program with the goal of reducing numbers by 80%. Under threat of a massive tourist boycott, the “land and shoot” policy was reintroduced. During Democrat Governor Tony Knowles Administration, only non-lethal measures were used against wolves. The Wolf Management Reform Coalition collected 33,000 signatures to put an aerial wolf hunting ban on the November 1996 ballot; 59% of Alaskans voted for it, with the exception being a biological emergency. A Republican Legislature introduced SB74. This bill eliminated the need for a biological emergency to justify aerial wolf control and usurped the will of the people. Governor Knowles vetoed the bill and the Republican majority overrode it. In March of 2000, SB267 was passed which allowed hunters other than the state biologists to aerially shoot wolves. That same year, Alaskans voted on another ballot initiative to ban aerial wolf hunting by a 53% majority. In 2004, then Governor Frank Murkowski reinstated aerial wolf hunting to private hunters. He opened up 60,000 square miles of Alaska for the flying cowboys. All you needed was a plane and a permit.

 

With all of this history, we should have been prepared to deal with a Palin Administration hell bent on killing wolves. She and I were “raised by the same wolves”, and she wants to shoot them out of planes. She stacked the Alaska Board of Game with pro-aerial wolf hunters. She was successful at merging faulty science, Safari Club International interests and state funded propaganda; spinning a web of lies to masquerade as conservation. I’m not sure where it started; maybe a spam email promising penis enlargement from shooting mammals out of planes went viral. Running our policy on “Faith Based Science” hasn’t worked; animals you believe are here for you to rule, and exist because Noah got two of them on a boat and they managed not to eat each other is one thing. But if you refuse to use the brain God gave you for observation and noticing patterns of science, well, how good of a steward of the Earth are you? Years of classic, scientific studies by Adolph Murie and Vic Van Ballenberghe have been mocked or ignored. Their studies were in the field, observing the balance between wolves and ungulate populations. They proved what common sense verifies; wolves take the weak and the sick thereby strengthening the herds. The Alaska Board of Game lacks common sense and ignores science. The Board is loaded with Viagra starved, trigger-happy Alaska Outdoor Council and Safari Club International agenda driven thugs.

 

Because of declining hunter success throughout the 1990s, residents of McGrath were vocal about the need for aerial wolf control. They complained loudly and constantly that there weren’t enough legal moose to hunt. The most comprehensive moose population survey to date was done in the fall of 2001. Alaska Department of Fish & Game Biologists documented moose numbers and the bull/cow ratios within a 520 square mile area around McGrath known as the Experimental Micro Management Area or EMMA, as well as the rest of Game Management Unit (GMU) 19D East. 520 square miles is a relatively small area. It is in fact, just under 12 miles north, south, east and west of McGrath. The target ratio for a sustainable hunted population is 30 bulls/100 cows. Within the EMMA, that ratio fell to an unhealthy 6 bulls/100 cows. Outside EMMA and basically outside the range of lazy 4-wheeler hunters, that ratio was 44 bulls/100 cows-well above the healthy target. Here’s the kicker direct from the Alaska Department of Fish & Games official report:

 

“The low bull:cow ratio in this area (EMMA) results from an imbalance between hunting and recruitment. The bull:cow ratio in the remainder of GMU 19D East remains relatively high.”

 

In other words, the science from ADF&G’s own biologists contradicted the need for any predator control. Studies conducted for the McGrath Adaptive Management Team proved that over-hunting was the reason for the lack of moose in the area, not wolves. That data was buried and wolf control was implemented.

 

Right before the 2006 Election, Alaskans for Wildlife submitted 57,000 signatures to get another aerial wolf hunting ban in place. Newly elected Governor Palin and the ADF&G issued even more wolf kill permits and put up a $150 bounty per wolf. A state judge ruled Palin exceeded her authority and the bounty was scrapped. At the end of the 2007 legislative session, Palin flooded the legislature with bills to ease up on wolf hunting restrictions, but the bills were held up in committee. In the spring of 2008, Palin tried to declare wildlife an “asset” of the State to make their management off limits to ballot initiatives. She covertly tried to tack a wolf hunting bill on to an animal cruelty bill, SB 273, introduced by Senator Bill Wielechowski. Pun intended: she got shot down.

 

Last month Alaskans voted once again on Aerial Predator Control. The intent of the ballot initiative was simple enough; to prohibit the shooting of wolves and grizzly bears from aircraft. Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, overseer of elections, did his part to insure the proposition language was confusing enough to guarantee failure:

 

Ballot Measure 2

 

Bill Amending Same Day Airborne Shooting

BALLOT LANGUAGE

This bill amends current law banning same-day

airborne shooting to include grizzly bears. The

bill permits the Board of Game to allow a predator

program for wolves and grizzly bears if the

Commissioner of Fish and Game finds an emergency,

where wolves or grizzly bears in an area

are causing a decline in prey. Only employees of

the Department of Fish and Game could take

part in the program. Only the minimum number

of wolves or grizzly bears needed to stop the

emergency could be removed.

Should this initiative become law?

___Yes

___No

 

Parnell was dragged into court several times for misrepresenting the intent of the initiative on the ballot. Many Alaskans were confused by the ballot language. My neighbor is a retired state engineer. He is a bright man and a conservationist. He voted no despite being an outspoken opponent of aerial wolf killing. Had I not known to vote yes, I would have voted no too. Now, aerial predator control proponents can disingenuously claim that Alaskans favor killing wolves and bears from planes as evidenced by the 2008 vote on Ballot Prop 2.

 

Governor Palin did her part to defeat the initiative as well. She approved the use of public money and ordered the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to publish a 26-page full color pamphlet called “Understanding Intensive Management and Predator Control in Alaska.” It circulated through newspapers statewide and was mailed to tens of thousands of Alaskans just days before the election. The pamphlet emphasized “how well the current system is working.” Jim Marcotte, Director of Support for the Board of Game, said the pamphlet was not meant to influence voters-Really? Spending public money to tell Alaskans that the Aerial Wolf Control Program is necessary to protect our moose and caribou populations just before a statewide election wasn’t an attempt to influence the outcome? The fear machine was in full force. The message was clear: wolves threaten hunters’ ability to put food on the table. But the truth was more about putting pelts on a wall.

 

In addition to the pamphlet and mailers, the state paid for Board of Game members to fly all over Alaska to “educate” the public on the benefits of predator control-again just before the election. This entire predator control program is about turning Alaska into a wild game farm. In response to the allegation that she signed off on a “propaganda campaign to justify the state’s barbaric wolf slaughter from the skies,” Palin said, “My understanding is this program was funded by the Legislature to factually explain game management practices to Alaskans, and I don’t have a problem with that.” The total bill for the “education” was $400,000. Nearly the same amount of money she vetoed for high school drop out prevention.

 

 

 

It’s shameful she spent almost half a million dollars on pamphlets to compensate for Alaska’s prohibition on Cialis. Hey, if you’ve been shooting wolves out of planes, and you have an erection lasting for more than four hours, check the Boone & Crocket stats, you may have a trophy!

 

In June of this year, the ADF&G broke their own predator control regulations with the slaughter of 14 wolf pups near Point Moeller. Under the ADF&G Wolf Control Regulations (5AAC 92.110(i)), “Denning, the killing of wolf young in the den, is prohibited.” On site at the scene of the crime were Deputy ADF&G Commissioner for Wildlife, Ken Taylor, and The Director of ADF&G’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, Doug Larsen. Why were suits from Juneau involved in a routine field operation? Why do we pay them salaries to enforce laws they are either unaware of, or choose to break? Perhaps they knew they were breaking their own law and were there to support the cover-up and clean up crew.

 

ADF&G Biologists want to “maintain” caribou herd numbers between 3,000-4,000 animals on the Alaska Peninsula near Port Moeller. According to former ADF&G Commissioner Ron Skoog, the caribou populations on the Alaska Peninsula have fluctuated many times over the last several decades. Indeed, the caribou population on the Alaska Peninsula has dropped to 500 or fewer at least 3 times over 132 years. ADF&G Biologists obtained emergency permission to kill wolves by misleading the Board of Game and Alaskans to think the current decline is unprecedented. This is clearly NOT the case.

 

Sarah Palin has been in a position to do the right thing for the wildlife of Alaska. Independent Alaskan Biologists have been begging for her ear. Faith based science is not science, yet it is what she has used in her policy making; mocking legitimate studies, and embracing big game hunters. The Rapture is not an environmental policy nor is it a game management policy.

 

It’s been a long time since I set or checked a trap. I’ve spent hours behind a camera, camping in bear refuges, in awe of the nature of Alaska. When I was a child, I had no idea how big the world was, or how tamed parts had become. Looking at the world, I know Alaska is precious in its wildness. Why can’t we just let Nature run wild?

 

If you want to do something to help, please click here.

 

Photos courtesy of Florian Schulz; Special thanks to Leo and Dorothy Keeler.

 

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Responses

  1. Excellent post Shannyn!

    I am very impressed with the depth of your research and the volume of information you brought to this article.

    I was just a little confused by your comparison of aerial wolf hunting to prostitution though. So are you saying that it is not okay to date wolves? Or that it is still okay to hunt prostitutes from a plane?

  2. Thanks for the great post! This predator control program WILL turn Alaska into a wild game farm if we don’t find a way to stop it. Thanks for including the actual CONFUSING language of Ballot Prop 2 in your article-I know many who voted NO who oppose the aerial slaughter of wolves. Governor Palin unethically, inappropriately and possibly illegally, influenced at least 2 Ballot propositions. This was her ABUSE OF POWER!

  3. it makes me sick

  4. You raise a lot of good points, but there’s two sides to this issue. Some things to keep in mind:

    1 – Residents of remote villages rely on hunting for sustenance. When the population of moose/caribou/whatever isn’t enough to replenish itself and sustain subsistence users, there are four choices – a) remove predators, b) starvation, c) removal of villagers from subsistence lifestyle (the “diabetes” option). If you selected “a”, there is a dollar cost involved depending on which method of removal is used.

    2 – Only a portion of the $400,000 propaganda fund has been spent thus far.

    3 – It seems a little arbitrary to draw a bright line between normal modern hunting and shooting wolves from a plane. Both require skill, in both cases you’re using advanced technology, and in both cases there’s hardly a chance that the wolf is going to kill you – not very sporting. Why should one activity be considered life-affirming and the other revolting? Why should your splitting-hairs morality be imposed on the rest of the state? Either a wolf deserves life or it doesn’t, and if it has an opinion on the matter, I doubt very much it would be okay with one form of killing and not the other.

    4 – The most obvious interpretation of the Alaska Constitution http://ltgov.state.ak.us/constitution.php?section=8 treats nature as a resource-producing system to be maintained such that resource production is maximized. It seems to me that predator control as it is currently practiced is a conservative implementation of this principle, and that one could interpret the Constitution to call for us to go crazy and allow lots of heavily taxed chartered plane hunts to exploit our predator “resources” such that prey populations boom so we can exploit our prey “resources” even more. As near I can tell, there’s no provision to maintain wilderness in pristine condition. Maybe folks should call for a constitutional amendment.

  5. appaerentlly Gryphen hasn’t read Butcher Baker the real story of mass murderer Hansen who kidnapped prostitutes from the Great Alaska Bush Company took them to a remote site, let them go and then hunted them with a bow.

    But more importantly, another example of Palin’s self ritcheous ways.

  6. moderate away

  7. I have listened to you talk about this for close to two years. You know more about this than anyone I know. Americans should listen to you. As an Alaskan, I have known your voice and believed it, and as an American I herald you in getting this message out. It all boils down to abuse of power, and we have had 8 years of that. Thank you, and I’ll see you on Saturday.
    Jeremy

  8. Hmm, I didn’t think I put anything objectionable in my comment, but it’s still awaiting moderation while other comments fly by. I hope as a fellow progressive, you are able to entertain alternative points of view – or what’s the use of having a comments section if you only let it have comments agreeing with you?

  9. Actually I am very aware of the Butcher Baker case, and even knew some of the cops involved.

    However my remark was simply a tongue in cheek comment that was not designed to dredge up painful memories of one of Alaska’s most sensational trials.

    For the record I am against aerial hunting of wolves, AND prostitutes. Just so you know.

  10. Juneau Dweller…there are two sides to the issue; science and reason, and just plain WRONG! You fall on the latter side.

    1. Rural Villages OVERWHELMINGLY voted to ban aerial wolf killing. They recognize, at least the indigenous natives do, that wolves play a critical role in sustaining healthy animals. Animal populations are cyclical and are more prone to over-hunting from people than wolves.

    2. Only $150,000 out of the $400,000 had been accounted for on the books as being spent as of August 20, 1 week prior to the election. There is certainly a several week lag time-perhaps months before the full accounting of the money can be reviewed. The full court press was the last week before the election. Board of Game members were being shuttled around the state, mailers were sent out and inserts found their way into the newspaper. This figure is not accurate. And what if it was? So what? $150,000 is still an abuse of power; using state funds to sway the vote your way contradicting available science.

    3. Seriously? Shooting wolves out of airplanes comparable to hunting them on the ground? First off, you missed the point; Shannyn’s piece is on predator control and how it is ignoring science and the will of the people…as far as hunting goes…there is no fair chase with airplanes. Cowboys in planes decimated the famous Tolkat Wolf Pack last year. It’s just plain wrong.

    4.§ 3. Common Use
    “Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use.”

    Now you are seriously killing me Juneau Dweller; you are trying to pervert the Great Alaska Constitution to make your point…and it makes mine; RESERVED FOR THE PEOPLE FOR COMMON USE! There is nothing in there about ignoring the will of the people-twice, ignoring science and using state funds to selfishly push through Alaska Outdoor Council Agendas that Sarah and Todd are proud members of.

    You are on the non-sensical side of this issue. Time to use your God given brain…maybe you should talk to someone about the constitution. You’re not a judge are you? That would be scary.

    Sean

  11. Juneau Dweller hits the nail on the head.
    Not picking on you or your Dad, Shannyn, but if you lost 9 out of 10 baits to mink, you chose wisely in following another career path. I too no longer pursue trapping but the lessons I learned from many years of lodge caretaking and other means of trapping have not left me.
    The noble wolf exists for a reason just as does the noble caribou, Dall sheep, moose and even homo sapiens.
    Just what that reason is is always subjective interpretation except for those who know their religion is the only true one. Seems to be a surplus of true ones out there these days.
    Putting the wolf on a pedestal ignores the fact they will eat themselves out of house and home, slowly and painfully starve,and then resort to cannibalism.
    You can trot out the stats from Vic van B, Adolph and Olaus and even Farley all you want, the Ak Peninsula caribou herd is on its way to extinction, the NW Arctic herd is hurting and there are reasons enough to have to take drastic resorts.
    Not always, but certainly in these instances. Other areas identified have been objectively vetted.
    I don’t care about the Safari Club,I don’t care about the macho posturings about shooting a wolf from a Super Cub, this is about extermination as a means of achieving a biological goal and it ain’t pretty but it fulfills a function. Rats on the Aleutians, wolves where needed. It’s always interesting to note the distinctions between what’s noble and what is not.
    If this were India, the rats would have their champions.
    It’s plainly obvious facts are always the first victims in this argument and that we will fight about it from our different perspectives forever, ad nauseum.
    If you have the courage to check your own convictions for validity, hold your nose and read Alaska’s Wolf Man (the 1915-55 wilderness adventures of Frank Glaser) by Jim Rearden, many of my experiences come from that kind of oldtimer.
    So bring on the invective, it’s what we do best, Wal Mart shoppers/petition gatherers.

    ******NOTE FROM SHANNYN*******
    Thanks for your post. I think it shows exactly how the issue of “predator control/aerial hunting” is divisive to Alaskans. The
    stats from both sides show some areas need control. I’m not opposed to that, I opposed to the manner in which it is done. I’m
    sorry if you confused my objections to gunning out of planes as some sort of wolf worship. My father and Jim Rearden are friends, and I don’t have to hold my nose to read anything he’s ever written. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. DavidO-

    You, much like the Alaska Board of Game, mock the science of field biologists. How do you explain the ADF&G Biologists field work comparing the bull/cow ratios within McGrath 4-wheeler range to the rest of GMU 19D East? The point is, 2 legged predators are responsible for the decline and the crybabies from McGrath still managed to implement a wolf slaughter. I found the historic perspective on game numbers interesting as well from Former Commish Ron Skoog; herd populations fluctuate year to year.

  13. Great story Shannyn, thanks so much. Great post DavidO, thanks for the insight. Great thinkers like you two will explore the variables to arrive at a great solution, I’m sure.

  14. Shannyn, thanks for your background to the Wolf aerial shooting….I haven’t hunted so your background growing up is foreign to me….I am also glad you found the aerial shooting so horrible.. Keep up your good work.

  15. […] I did know just the person to do it. Friend and fellow blogger Shannyn Moore was born in rural Alaska. If there’s anyone who can claim to be coming at this particular […]

  16. Thanks for the explanation. Good luck in the weeks ahead.

  17. This is the reason I named my blog Helicopter Barbie. For God’s sakes, Alaska, with all your resources and wide open spaces, let nature alone to take it’s course. It doesn’t even take science to explain why this is so wrong, common sense ought to do it.

    Thank you Shannyn for the excellent post and I hope you don’t mind that I posted it entirely with all proper credits and links too.

  18. Wow, this was a really interesting post. I’m from New Zealand and know next to nothing about wolves, Alaska, or Sarah Palin but environmental science and conservation management interest me immensely.

    So, wolf and caribou/moose populations are self-regulating? And when aerial hunters drastically cut down the wolf population it has a long term negative effect on the caribou population leading to a decline in the robustness of both species? As well as being unsporting, against the wishes of many Alaskans and just, well, crude.

  19. Given Sarah’s disposition for cronyism, the next question is, who of her friends profits from aerial wolf hunting.

  20. I’ve been following the details of how Palin has distorted and lied on so many topics, but I can tell you people not in Alaska will never understand or accept shooting wolves from aircraft.

    It’s ugly and inhumane.. I’ve sent this to a friend who’s an editor at USA Today.. Maybe it’ll come out more publically, but i’d suggest you email EVERY majot newspaper in the USA and let them see the real Sarah Palin.

    Good luck!!

  21. I’ve got a stupid question.

    If the complaint is that the moose population isn’t sufficient to provide food through the winter, and they’re shooting the wolves because of whatever misguided beliefs… can you eat the wolves?

    I’m sorry if that’s insensitive or callous and I don’t mean to be offensive. It’s just that as a vegetarian I don’t really understand why some animals are ok to eat and others aren’t. I mean, if you’ve already shot and killed the wolf, why let it go to waste?

    Hunting, even shooting them from helicopters, is still far more humane than factory farming. But only if you’re actually going to eat what you kill. Otherwise, it just seems kind of barbaric.

  22. Palin is a disgusting example of a human being. She just can’t seem to make a good decision. Please take her back to Alaska. Her record on almost everything is abyssmal. How did she ever get elected. I hope she gets eaten by a polar bear, grizzly bear or a female wolf who has been raped and forced to pay for its own rape kit. What a cunt

  23. Dear Shannyn,
    I must say I have enjoyed your blogs. Kudos to you for shedding light.

    With all due respect, however, I do hope that you are stuck with your current governor for another couple of years. God help the USA if the McPalin ticket wins……

  24. Hi,
    I came across your post and have supplied links to it on blogging sites. There seems to be too many people that are arguing this issue without having the facts straight. This is barbaric and so is Palin. Thank you for the intelligent and well written article. I am also passing this link around:

    http://www.alternet.org/rights/100069/has_sarah_palin_been_picked_as_the_titular_head_of_the_coming

  25. […] brought up a fight she lost.  Ashley Judd’s ads fighting Palin’s policy on aerial hunting and the gassing of wolf pups still in their den, were effective.  While […]

  26. […] […]

  27. […] […]

  28. I don’t live in Alaska…I don’t even live in the US…but I do live on the same planet. I have heard the arguments for environment and the arguments for pest control. I have read mountains of scientific data and political facts and figures. To me, both sides of this argument are irrelevant.

    Whether it be Wolves in Alaska or Elephants in Africa, my fundamental belief is the same. I have no issue with anything hunting for food or anything fighting for survival (however distasteful it may be to watch) but, no matter how hard I try, I cannot fathom the mindset of anything that can hunt another living creature for sport.

    Even animals, who are considered beneath mankind, don’t do that…


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