Reprieve for Alaskan wolves, But the Yukon opens fire; Tourist boycott of Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta underway

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1993:

WHITEHORSE, Yukon, Canada –– Dispatched in near-secrecy circa
February 5 by the Yukon territorial government, a helicopter attack team will have killed
150 of the estimated 200 wolves in the Aishihik Lake region, and be heading home again
as ANIMAL PEOPLEgoes to press.
The scheduled 20-day mission was undertaken in direct defiance of international
appeals and threats of a tourism boycott. Protests held at various points in Canada and the
U.S. on February 8 were ignored by Yukon minister of renewable resources Bill Brewster.

Brewster has close links to the hunting
outfitters who expect to benefit by
increased moose and caribou populations,
which are supposed to result from the wolf
massacre. Brewster also dismissed the
concerns of the Canadian Parks and
Wilderness Society and World Wildlife
Fund Canada president Monte Hummel,
who pointed out that the killing zone is
perilously close to Kluane National Park,
whose wildlife is protected by internation-
al treaty. The park has been designated a
World Heritage Site by the United
Animal and habitat protection
groups barely had time to celebrate the
January 29 cancellation of a similar wolf
massacre scheduled for Alaska before the
Yukon massacre got underway.
The Yukon government plans to
spend $975,000 (U.S. funds) to massacre
wolves in the Aishihik region over the
next five years, in an attempt to boost the
regional moose population to 4,000 and
the caribou population to 2,500––”500
higher than its historical peak,” the
Canadian Wolf Alliance pointed out.
“The wolf-kill plan is madness.
The Yukon government must be stopped,”
Canadian author Farley Mowat declared.
Mowat wrote the bestseller Never Cry
Wolf based on his own experience observ-
ing wolves in the far north.
His appeal was answered by the
Canadian Wolf Alliance, Friends of the
Wolf, the Animal Defense League of
Canada, International Wildlife Coalition
Canada, the International Society for
Animal Rights, and Hunt Enders, who all
called boycotts of the Yukon during the last
few days of January.
George Clements of the
Vancouver-based Association for the
Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals mean-
while pointed out that the Yukon isn’t the
only part of Canada with active anti-wolf
policies. “Wolf-killing continues as usual in
British Columbia,” Clements told A N I-
MAL PEOPLE, “and the government
wildlife branch has just received another
five-year permit to poison more wolves and
coyotes, using Compound 1080 (banned
from most uses in the U.S.) in livestock-
related situations. British Columbia govern-
ment wildlife officers kill about 150-200
wolves annually. The B.C. government
loans out at least 500 huge, powerful
leghold traps to ranchers and trappers to
encourage more wolf-killing.” Further,
Clements noted, the official estimate of the
B.C. wolf population is based on guessti-
mates more than a decade old, and the gov-
ernment admits the population could num-
ber anywhere from 2,500 to 11,000 wolves.
A similar situation prevails in
Alberta, where government agents use
strychnine to poison wolves alleged to have
attacked cattle. Strychnine causes such a
slow, agonizing death, and is so likely to
be picked up by non-target animals that use
of it to control feral dog populations has
long been abandoned almost everywhere it
was ever used. Continuing use in Israel is
subject of international protest led by
Concern for Helping Animals in Israel.
January 25, Friends of Animals,
the North American Wolf Foundation, and
ANIMAL PEOPLE endorsed the boycott
of Yukon and extended it to British
Columbia and Alberta. The B.C. tourist
centers of Vancouver and Victoria were
exempted as a goodwill gesture until Good
Friday, April 9, pending a positive
response from the B.C. government. At
deadline, the B.C. government had only
denied the existence of anti-wolf policies.
In Defense of Animals called a
similar boycott of the Yukon, Britsh
Columbia, and Alberta later the same day.
Project Wolf USA had already been boy-
cotting all three jurisdictions.
The initial Canadian media
response to the boycott was encouraging.
The Yukon News even urged the territorial
government to cancel the wolf kill. There
was little response, however, from U.S.
media, and perhaps consequently, little
commitment from other U.S. groups who
had been involved in the boycott of Alaska.
Clements warned ANIMAL PEOPLE t h a t
the B.C. government rode out boycotts over
wolf-killing in the mid-1980s, and may take
the non-commitment of such high-profile
groups as the Fund for Animals and the
Humane Society of the U.S. as a sign that
this boycott, too, lacks the energy to suc-
ceed––even though the high-profile groups
likewise held back from joining the boycott
of Alaska until success seemed assured.
Although the boycott of Alaska is
now suspended, it may be on again before
the year is out. January 29, the Alaska
Board of Game formally rescinded the plan
to kill wolves to benefit big game hunters
that it adopted on November 17, 1992.
However, the Board of Game also rescind-
ed protection of wolves in many areas,
including a 10-mile-wide buffer strip east of
Danali National Park. In addition, the
Board of Game booked a meeting on wolf
control to be held in Juneau, the state capi-
tal, from June 26 through July 1. At that
meeting, the Board of Game is expected to
recommend the re-establishment of land-
and-shoot recreational wolf-killing, which
would allow hunters to spot wolves from
aircraft, so long as they were only shot
from the ground. A previous land-and-
shoot season was cancelled only two years
ago, under threat of legal action by groups
who argued that land-and-shoot violates the
1971 federal Airborne Hunting Act.
Warned Friends of Animals presi-
dent Priscilla Feral, “If there is a new move
to start killing wolves, we shall respond
vigorously, and with a much improved
understanding of the situation and of our
Board of Game members made
plain that they rescinded their plan to strafe
wolves only because of pressure from elect-
ed officials, who feared that a tourist boy-
cott could cost the state as much as $80 mil-
lion. Adding weight to the boycott appeals
of activist groups, the Seattle-based
Holland-America Line Westours Inc.
promised it would stop tourist excursions to
Alaska if a wolf cull proceeded, costing the
state 109,000 visitors per year and 2,000
jobs. (Thank Holland-America Line
Westours at 300 Elliot Ave. W. Seattle,
WA 98119-4199.)
Democracy in action
“The political process fouled up
the whole system for us,” stated Board of
Game member Al Franzmann. Alaska sep-
aratists, including Governor Walter Hickel,
a member of the Alaska Independence Party,
seized upon the wolf issue as an example of
how “Foreign tourism interests continue to
hold Alaska hostage,” although tourism is
the state’s third largest source of income. A
full-page ad in the Daily News Miner o n
January 17 charged that protest over wolf-
killing amounted to “extortion.”
Alaska Division of Wildlife
Conservation director David Kelleyhouse, a
trapper, suggested that wolves could be
kept from attacking caribou and moose
calves by air-dropping meat to them during
the calving season. This, Kelleyhouse
argued, might be acceptable to tourists.
Then trappers could kill the wolves later.
The Alaska Department of Fish
and Game is already urging trappers to kill
more wolves. The state and the Alaska
Trappers Association have co-sponsored an
annual seminar on wolf-trapping since 1990.
At a “wolf summit” held in
Fairbanks, January 16-18, Alaskan offi-
cials resisted suggestions that the
predator/prey balance among wolves,
moose, and caribou might be already be at
the optimum level for the habitat. The prin-
cipal areas involved are the 28,000-square-
mile Nelchina Basin, between Fairbanks
and Anchorage, and the Fortymile region,
east of Fairbanks.
“We’re trying to manipulate the
system to produce more animals for
hunters,” Fish and Game Department super-
visor Ken Pitcher admitted, pointing out
that 14,000 sport hunters applied for only
5,000 licenses to shoot caribou in the
Nelchina Basin last year.
The Board of Game, however,
claimed the wolf-killing was to help native
people, even flying delegates to the village
of Minto––well outside the wolf-killing
area––to meet natives who hunt for food.
Tanana Chiefs Conference presi-
dent Will Mayo didn’t buy the ruse. “The
proposals before the public will not posi-
tively affect rural subsistence users,” Mayo
told readers of the Fairbanks Daily News
Miner on January 17, “because the problem
faced by villagers in these areas is not a
shortage of game…The problem is a failure
of the state to place controls on urban users
who are in direct competition with villages.”
Mayo also pointed out that the Board of
Game had arbitrarily decided to increase the
Nelchina caribou herd from 38,000 to
60,000 without determining first if the habi-
tat could support the increase, and that
bears, not wolves, account for an estimated
40% of summer moose calf kills.
Anchorage Daily News h u n t i n g
columnist Craig Medred also challenged the
Board of Game position. “Despite some
claims that the Fortymile caribou population
numbered 500,000 animals in the 1920s,”
Medred wrote, “I’m not sure a population
over 50,000 is a reasonable expect-
ation…Any number of crashes in moose pop-
ulations can be traced back to Fish and
Game efforts to hold populations at or near
all-time highs.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
researcher Vic VanBallenberghe argued that
Nalchina Basin moose already show “physi-
cal signs of malnutrition and limited food
supply,” predicting a population crash for
the next winter with deep snow.
Feral meanwhile spent three hours
flying with Thomas Classen, a bush pilot
who has participated in the official state
wolf counts. In one of the killing zones,
where there were supposed to be 292
wolves, Classen and Feral found only
four––and only one wolf kill site. They did,
however, find extensive evidence of heavy
hunting and trapping pressure. It is probable
that poachers kill more moose and caribou in
the areas in question than the 500 to 1,500
believed to be taken by wolves.
Protest the Yukon wolf-killing
(with separate letters) to John Ostachek,
Government Leader, and Bill Brewster,
Minister of Renewable Resources, Yukon
Territorial Government, Box 2703,
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 2C6;
Shelda Brown, Tourism Industry of the
Yukon, 203-208 Main St., Whitehorse,
Yukon, Canada Y1A 2A9; and Art
Pearson, President, Yukon Chamber of
Commerce, 302 Steele Street, Whitehorse,
Yukon, Canada Y1A 2C5.
Protest the British Columbia wolf-
killing to Bill Reid, Minister of Tourism,
Room 248, Parliament Bldg., Victoria,
British Columbia, Canada V8V 1X5.
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.