Throwing wolves and sharks to the tourists: ALASKA AND HAWAII PLAN PREDATOR MASSACRES

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1992:

to hype tourism, the Alaska Board of
Game on November 17 announced plans
to kill up to 80% of the 700 wolves who
inhabit the 43,000-square-mile region
between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The
same day, for essentially the same rea-
son, the Hawaii Shark Task Force
nnounced it would begin killing tiger
sharks on sight.
The Alaskan massacre is to
commence as early as January, while
shark-killing off the coast of Hawaii may
already be underway. In each case, state
officials called the killing necessary to
boost the tourist industry, but in each
case and especially vis-a-vis Alaska, the
immediate result was a wildcat (sponta-
neous) boycott by potential visitors,
which within 10 days seemed likely to
become an international campaign by
animal protection and environmental

The Alaska Board of Game
voted to kill wolves, said spokesman
Bruce Bartley, because, “Some hunters
feel they are being shortchanged. They
think a few more moose and caribou
ought to die by bullets instead of by
To accommodate the hunters,
Alaskan wardens and private citizens will
be encouraged to shoot 300 to 400 gray
wolves a year for each of the next five
years. The initial massacre will cut the
present wolf population by at least half.
Killing in subsequent years is intended to
make the population reduction semi-perma-
nent, by equalling or exceeding the estimat-
ed maximum rate of wolf reproduction.
The wolves will be spotted by air,
then shot on the ground, using a technique
called land-and-shoot, which was expressly
forbidden by the federal Airborne Hunting
Act. A loophole in the act, however, per-
mits use of land-and-shoot for “state-sanc-
tioned wildlife control.”
Hawaii moved against tiger sharks
after an 18-year-old native Hawaiian was
killed November 5 in a shark attack while
body-surfing. Two weeks earlier, on
October 22, a tiger shark bit another
Hawaiian resident’s surfboard. Fatal shark
attacks are extremely rare in Hawaiian
waters (there are fewer than 30 a year
worldwide, mostly off Southeast Asia), and
neither of the recent attacks involved a
tourist. However, state officials feared that
the publicity surrounding the attacks would
scare away visitors at a time when the weak
economy already has the state’s $3.3-billion-
a-year tourist trade in a steep slump.
“We cannot sit around and twiddle
our thumbs,” said Shark Task Force head
William Paty, who also heads the state
Department of Land Natural Resources.
Details of the Hawaiian anti-shark
campaign were deliberately kept secret to
obstruct protest. However, a hotline (58-
SHARK) was established to encourage resi-
dents to report shark sightings, and the
Honolulu Advertiser reported that military
helicopters were being used to detect and
track sharks at sea.
Paty denied that the shark mas-
sacre would have ecologically harmful con-
sequences. Shark experts are less sanguine.
Although tiger sharks are not one of the
most endangered shark species, the global
population of all sharks has crashed in
recent years, since shark fin soup came into
vogue in Japan, sending shark carcass
prices soaring along with fishing pressure.
Because sharks take 12 years to reach sexual
maturity and up to 22 months to gestate, the
species recovers slowly from population
But the Alaskan wolf massacre
claimed the international spotlight, reviving
as it does a practice abandoned under
intense pressure over a decade ago. Land-
and-shoot sport hunting of wolves was
stopped only two years ago––and a tourism
boycott of British Columbia that forced a
moratorium on shooting wolves from the air
is still well-remembered in the region.
The Alaska Board of Game con-
tends that without the wolves, the 60,000
caribou and 30,000 moose who live between
Anchorage and Fairbanks will grow in num-
bers to, “create a wildlife spectacle,”
according to Alaska Division of Wildlike
Conservation director Dave Kelleyhouse.
Between hunting seasons, he said, “Mom
and Pop from Syracuse can come up here
and see something that they can’t see any-
where else on earth.”
To make sure predation of caribou
and moose diminishes, the Board of Game
also intends to kill an unspecified number of
the 2,000 grizzly bears who roam the region
in question.
Dr. Gordon Haber, who has stud-
ied gray wolves in Alaska for 27 years, is
skeptical that killing either wolves or bears
will help moose and caribou. “This decision
is bad biology all around, almost insulting
from a scientific standpoint,” he told
Timothy Egan of The New York Times.
“They are making a very dumb mistake.”
Haber pointed out that neither wolves nor
grizzly bears kill trophy animals in the first
place, the ones the hunters covet. Rather,
they cull the sick, the injured, the oldest,
and the youngest––a portion of the caribou
population with little or no involvement in
reproduction but considerable involvement
in transmitting infectious disease in the
absence of predators.
Knowing the wolf-killing plan was
up for consideration, backed by the pro-
hunting Alaska Outdoor Council, the
Alaska Wildlife Alliance had issued an
emergency alert to other animal and habitat
protection groups, urging input before the
Board of Game met. Bartley acknowledged
receiving hundreds of letters of protest, but
dismissed them because they mostly came
“from out of state.”
But tourists also come to Alaska
from out of state, and the $2-billion-a-year
tourist industry is the state’s leading source
of jobs. The Alaska Tourism Marketing
Council commenced an immediate damage
control effort.
“The tourism industry in Alaska
wants the environmental community to
know that it had nothing to do with the
Board of Game’s decision,” executive direc-
tor Tina Lundgren wrote in a fax to animal
protection and environmental groups.
But instead of condemning the
Board of Game strategy, and asking that it
be reversed, Lundgren went on to praise
previous Board of Game actions that protect
the wolf population in the vicinity of Denali
National Park and Reserve, far to the north
of the slated massacre area. “We hope you
will agree that the effort to manage wildlife
should not be associated with the effort to
attract visitors,” she concluded.
The Alaska Tourism Marketing
Council is 85% funded by the state govern-
Boycott call
ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt
Clifton was among the first to respond. “It
may be true,” he told Lundgren, “that you
had nothing to do with the Board of Game’s
decision. But it is also true that the Board of
Game has rationalized the decision to kill
wolves by proclaiming that it is for the bene-
fit of tourism. In short, it is being done in
yoiur name. If indeed it is not with your
consent and approval, it is incumbent upon
you to apply all the pressure at your disposal
to Governor Walter Hickel (who favors the
massacre), the Board of Game, and the
Alaska legislature, to insure that this false
rationale is removed and the wolf-killing
cancelled ––and to make your actions
unequivocal, emphatic, and public, to
demonstrate clear good faith.”
Clifton pointed out that since win-
ter is the off-season for Alaskan tourism,
the state has every opportunity to back off
and spare the wolves before a boycott does
serious economic harm
Priscilla Feral of Friends of
Animals promised a boycott. “We’re talking
money,” she said, “a language the state will
Already, protesters were assem-
bling daily outside travel agencies in San
Francisco and Seattle that book cruises to
Alaska. Alaska Division of Tourism deputy
director Wendy Wolf acknowledged having
received numerous calls informing her of
cancelled vacation trips.
Lundgren said the Alaska Tourism
Marketing Council might reconsider its posi-
tion of neutrality, “if we get many people
considering cancelling their vacations in
Letters of protest against the wolf
killing may be directed to Governor Walter
Hickel, P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK
99811-0001; and the Alaska Division of
Tourism, P.O. Box 110801, Juneau, AK
Letters of protest against the shark
massacre may be directed to the Governor’s
office, State Capitol Building, 5th floor,
Honolulu, HI 96813. Make plain that your
objection is not to protecting beaches from
particular sharks who may menace people,
but rather to slating a species for wholesale
slaughter because of the actions of a very
few individuals.
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