Posted by: shannynmoore | October 16, 2009

A Sad Wolf Song: Rest In Peace Gordon Haber

The details are still foggy about the plane crash near the east fork of the Toklat River.

Whatever the details, Alaskans live in an extreme land.  While watching the news, you may hear tragedies of neighbors, school mates, old lovers…it’s a mine field.  I can’t explain the connection I feel to the trusted news men and women who bring me these stories.

Gordon Haber, 67, a wolf biologist, was on the plane.  He had been a guest on my radio show during the fight to ban aerial wolf hunting.  He was an advocate of science who seemed to find wolves less rabid than humans.  His research and dedication to the science of wolves was relied upon for much of my own writing on the aerial hunting policies of Sarah Palin exactly one year before his death.

He wrote of his struggle against the state policies with no subtle words:

Unfortunately there are major problems for wolves in Alaska and elsewhere from heavy government-sanctioned killing, including with the use of airplanes and snowmobiles. There have even been Mengele-like experiments to convert their vibrant family groups (so-called packs) to sterile pairs across large regions. The vital underlying patterns of variation that define natural wolf-prey systems are being ignored and replaced. This is being done with parochial, anti-adaptive farming approaches to management that seldom if ever produce and sustain the high, stable numbers and yields of moose and caribou touted by proponents. Perhaps worst of all, these problems originate primarily from biologists and remain largely hidden from public notice due to outright deception.

He wasn’t a snuggly guy. He was serious, and locked horns on occasion.  Most people who care so passionately do.  His website was dedicated to his life’s work.  His tweets were about the Toklat wolf “family” and his determination to see their recovery after a hunter killed the pack’s alpha male and alpha female.

Some of my favorites:

Raw, wild beauty at the den tonite with the wolves howling a great chorus for me as rolling thunder from a passing storm shakes the valley.12:19 PM Jul 3rd from web

Grizz bear going same way on forest trail during my hike to den. Lukewarm droppings indicated he was a good half hour or more ahead of me.11:47 AM Jul 11th from web

Biologists are the primary culprits, not the governor and other policymakers. Blasting at these others diverts from the real cause.5:21 AM Jun 27th from web

The killing is far worse than the 100-200 wolves aerial-hunted each winter. Total of 1200-1500+ killed most years. Must address all of it.5:18 AM Jun 27th from web

This issue has been dumbed down to meaninglessness. The level of detail at these links is vital. Force yourself to understand it -you can!5:16 AM Jun 27th from web

Raw, gusty wind during den obs tonite,55F -watching wolves not always fun and games. Sitting in those conditions for hours builds character.1:49 PM Jun 21st from web

Gordon’s last tweet makes me curious:

Go to new photo essay at Website Been busy with court action against state,etc but more on the way here+website10:36 AM Oct 2nd from web

I wonder when the wolves howl tonight…

florian shulz

florian shulz

do they know what an advocate, friend, lover of nature and defender of justice they have lost in the death of a man who knew them better than most?

We have lost one of the pack leaders in the war to defend the wolf…on the same land where he mapped their lives.

Rest In Peace Gordon Haber.

Rest In Peace The Wolves He Tried To Save.



  1. Well done, great tribute. Thank you, Shannyn, for this heartfelt, educational piece.

  2. Who will step up and fill this immeasurable loss? Thanks Shannyn for such a moving tribute to such an amazing man…Can’t stop weeping…

  3. Beautiful…brought tears to my eyes. Seems to be one of those months that takes the good guys away.

  4. I’m devastated at this news, and wolves in Alaska have lost their best advocate: Gordon Haber. Friends of Animals, the international group I head, has sponsored Gordon’s work since I met him at the Wolf Summit former Gov. Hickel arranged in January 1993. There, he stood apart form all the rest — a brilliant, rugged individual who stood up to trappers, other wolf-haters and the state of Alaska — helping us challenge various interventions in defense of wolves. Gordon’s death is tragic. The flying that allowed him to track wolves vulnerable to trappers, hunters and the state’s wolf control pogroms, was demanding, different type of flying. Maybe we’ll learn more from the pilot, who luckily survived the crash.

    Meanwhile, donations in Gordon Haber’s memory can be sent to Friends of Animals, 777 Post Road, Darien, CT 06820 or made online at We will work to keep his brilliant, vital work-related efforts alive.

    Priscilla Feral
    Friends of Animals

  5. Shannyn thank you for sharing your thoughts of such an incredible man. This is indeed a great loss to the cause of saving wolves from the awful, brutal practice of “wildlife management” from an airplane. Like so many, I have the hope that one day this will change. However, with the loss of Gordon Haber, it will only be that much more of an uphill battle for us.

  6. Thank-you for the beautiful tribute to a man who did so much to promote the protection of the wolves. I am sick that he is gone. In fact, I’m having difficulty fathoming it.

  7. Gordon was one of my best friends for years in Alaska. We formed W.O.L.F. to fight aerial wolf hunting and worked with Jay Hammond and others repeatedly to try and stop aerial killing.
    I am deeply saddened over this loss.
    Shannyn, would you please email me.

  8. Very sad news.

  9. Gordon did was no one else does. But now we must. He saw how wildlife management mustn’t look at animals as populations, but as families, groups, individuals. His work with Alaska’s wolves is as ground-breaking, intimate, and thorough as that of Adolph Murie, whose work he had continued. Now Gordon’s work must continue.

    We are planning a memorial for Gordon in Anchorage, on or near Nov. 6. Stay tuned for details, and join us to celebrate an amazing human being.

  10. Thank you for that tribute. I’m glad there are people like Gordon.

    I contribute financially to Defenders of Wildlife – does anyone know of other good organizations/ways to help out the wolves?

  11. This a bad news day indeed for wolves. I just received an email from Defenders of Wildlife that the entire Cottonwood Pack in Yellow Stone have been killed. This is the result of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar delisting rule that removed vital protection for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain Region. Please contact Salazar and ask him to restore this protection to the Rocky Mountain Wolves. I think it would be nice to do in memory of Gordon Haber. Unfortunately Alaska wolves are not the only ones under threat.

  12. Well done tribute, Thank You.

  13. When I saw the article about Haber in the Newsminer I went to his Web site and poured over it for hours. What an amazing, passionate individual. Condolences to all who knew him. Alaska’s truly at a loss today. I’m off to make a donation in his memory.

  14. The very best tribute to this activist scholar in Alaskan media. Well done!

  15. Andy: Friends of Animals funded Gordon’s work. They are an excellent place to contribute to.
    SoCal: You are so right. Look on Gordon’s blog: for what he had to say about the delisting.

  16. Thank you for the beautiful eulogy. The wolves of Denali have lost a Champion. The world has lost a Hero.



    You can go to this site to set up a candle for Gordon Haber.

  18. Shannyn — Gordon Haber’s family in Florida is flying into Anchorage for the memorial on or around Nov. 7 (details to soon be released, as Marybeth says), and wants you to please attend.
    They asked about how to contact you.

    Please write me at

    Priscilla Feral
    Friends of Animals
    Darien, CT

  19. I’m so sorry to hear this news. The wolves have lost a great friend and advocate. It saddens me to hear of the loss of this wonderful person. He’ll be missed by many.

    Sincere condolences and prayers to his family.

  20. Thank you very sad news

  21. In fall of 2002 I met Dr. Gordon C. Haber. It was one of the highlights of my life. Having just moved to Alaska with big dreams about working in the field of animal behavior, studying wolves, I was referred to Dr. Haber by someone in the career center at UAA.

    We met at Cafe del Mundo and spoke for two hours. Having a hundred questions about his research, one of the most important was if he would hire me to be his assistant. In the end, while he said that I was qualified to work with him, he liked to work alone and that there was only room on the Sesna for two people, the pilot and one passenger. Nonetheless, our meeting was profoundly moving to me.

    He spoke of the #1 ingredient for science…WONDER. He spoke of the importance of preserving natural processes, and that it’s not simply about maintaining biodiversity. He corrected me when I used the term “packs” when referring to groups of wolves and said they were “families” comprised of mostly related wolves. He dissuaded me from trying to get a government job because he felt that they do low quality backward science and that the main concern is with the taking of resources rather than being focused on behavior research.

    Being in Alaska, after coming from the “Outside” I was able to see the giant obstacles Dr. Haber was continually and bravely fighting against. Alaska is beautiful and, in spite of that, there is a very large culture that does not think of protecting it. The idea is to just take from nature for your own gain. While living in Alaska can be a harsh life, indigenous peoples have lived in the state for millenia with attitudes that I would call much more harmonious and respectful. Dr. Haber was continuously having to battle a mindset from the Alaska government that is very backward with self-interest as its priority. They, and many of its residents, look negatively at the “lower 48” because the rest of the nation wants to protect the state and its wildlife, interfering with its development and “progress”. I came to Alaska because I thought that in such a wild beautiful place its residents would be very conservation minded and concerned about protecting all that surrounds them. I mostly found the opposite to be true, which is why leaders are continuously voted into offices who will advocate to exploit the environment.

    My heart goes out to Dr. Haber for his unyielding advocacy for one of nature’s most magnificent creatures. We must keep his passion and vision alive.

  22. I first heard of Gordon Haber after reading Peter Steinhart’s The Company of Wolves (which is one of the best wildlife books ever!)

    I used to visit Haber’s website, just to look at the amazing photos. They were little vignettes of wolf life.

    I don’t romanticize the animal, but I do admire it.

    It once roamed virtually the whole of Eurasia and North America as the top predators. Then our species arrived, a naked tropical ape with an inefficient mode of locomotion. On the surface, we were no match for the wolves, but in the end, we slaughtered them from all the subtropical and temperate regions. They’ve made some modest comebacks, but they are nothing like they once were.

    There is some evidence that man and wolf evolved together:

    But that symbiosis existed only so long as we were hunter-gatherers. As soon as we developed agriculture and our population expanded, the wolf stood in the way of our species rise to dominance.

    Ironically, some wolves attached themselves to us, and these eventually became the domestic dog, an animal we admire to no end in this country.

    We need to be more scientists like Gordon Haber. Too many of them have subverted their science to serve the needs of self-aggrandizing politicians who claim to care about rural people’s needs but who really care more themselves and their contributors.

  23. Shocking news and a terrible loss!
    I first read of Haber’s work in the 1970s when I was a kid – he wrote some fascinating articles in Alaska Magazine about following wolf families.
    I was just thinking the other day of some other wildlife researchers and advocates who had perished in plane crashes. An awful coincidence.
    Now, another tireless advocate is gone in an instant. 😦
    Thank you Lisa for your vignette of Dr. Haber. “He spoke of the #1 ingredient for science…WONDER.”

  24. Gordie was a seasonal ranger when I was District Ranger at Wonder Lake, mid 60s. His passion for wolves was just starting at that time. He was pretty intense, but a lot of fun. He and George Perkins were the people who had partial radio contact with the ill-fated Wilcox Expedition in 67 and did a remarkable job with communications and logging events. Gordon lived a life doing what he loved, pursuing his passion – something we can all envy.
    Wayne Merry

  25. Thank you very sad news

  26. […] around Denali National Park despite the wolf population plummeting to a 23 year low. Late biologist Gordon Haber fought to his early death to protect those wolves. Governor Sean Parnell appointed Al Barrette to […]

  27. a message for my uncle Gordon, I feel so empty and lost, i cant pick that phone up to talk, or just run something by you, I Have done what you asked of me, you would be happy, I feel an emptyness without you guiding me and our in the midde of the night talks that would last for hours I did hear you call me the other night, woke me out of a sound sleep, i know you are watching over me and the kids, i sure wish i new what to do to watch over yours, if people only new what a wonderful person you were, you were always there no matter what. Tina still cries, we always kiss your picture, I LOVE AND MISS YOU SO MUCH, I SURE HOPE SOMEONE WILL KEEP YOUR CAUSE AND CHILDREN ALIVE AND PROTECT THEM JUST LIKE YOU DID WITH THEM AND US. i miss and love you with all my hart. Your loveing niece. Cheryl Richardson

  28. Oh I just stumbled on these posts about Gordan Haber. What a terrible loss for Alaskans who care about wolves and the the wolves of Denali Park. I still feel the ache of that loss. I met Gordan Haber in Denali Park in the early 1970s. I had been a naturalist at Katmai National Monument (Park now). I had observed wolves in Katmai and wanted to study them. Thank you for these heartfelt remembrances of Gordan. Susan Hansen, Fairbanks, Alaska

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