From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1993:

many as 450 Alaskan wolves will be
trapped, snared, and shot during the next
three winters to make more moose and
caribou available to hunters, under pro-
posals adopted July 1 by the Alaska
Board of Game.
go to press until the Board of Game deci-
sion became final—a week after the nor-
mal deadline––because of the signal
importance of the wolf issue in the ongo-
ing clash between ecology-based and
hunter-driven philosophies of conserva-
tion. The board was expected to revive
the wolf control strategy scrapped last
winter under threat of a tourism boycott,
but the details were obscured in a blizzard
of 92 wolf management proposals on the
summer meeting agenda, two of them
from the Alaska Department of Fish and
Game and many others from influential
hunting associations.

Trappers get first shot at the
wolves, literally, starting October 1.
The Board of Game redefined the status
of Alaskan wolves to allow anyone with a
$15 trapping license to spot them from
the air, land, walk 100 yards from the
aircraft, and shoot them. Hunter/ trappers wealthy enough
to use aircraft to check traplines may now use this variant of
the land-and-shoot tactic—banned two years ago—any-
where in Alaska, not just the region designated for wolf con-
trol. The 100-yard rule, newly extended to wolves but pre-
viously applied to foxes, coyotes, and lynx, is likely to
boost trapping license sales, which have declined in recent
years: while the cost of flying time quckly exceeds the typi-
cal yield from a trapline at current fur prices, the cost of a
trapping license is pocket change to airborne trophy hunters.
(Pelt prices were as much as 10 times present levels when
the 100-yard rule was extended to the other predators.)
If private hunter/trappers appear unlikely to kill the
quota of up to 150 wolves each winter in the wolf control
zone, Alaska Department of Fish and Game staffers are
now authorized to join in the killing. Meanwhile, to help
hunter/trappers, deputy director of wildlife conservation
Wayne Regelin said, “Information on where wolves are
may be provided based on aerial observations.” Regelin
denied, however, that the Department of Fish and Game
would make special wolf-spotting flights.
It was Regelin who in January issued a blanket
promise that there would be no wolf control in Alaska this
year, persuading an international coalition of animal and
habitat protection groups to lift the boycott of Alaskan
tourism called in response to the plan to shoot wolves from
the air that the Board of Game advanced last November.
How and why
The current killing strategy differs from last year’s
in that there is now only one wolf control zone, game man-
agement unit 20-A, rather than four including 20-A and
three others; the alpha wolves (pack leaders) in at least two
of last year’s proposed killing zones were radio-collared,
but those of 20-A are not; and the number of wolves to be
killed within the killing zones is lower––though the rule
allowing trappers to shoot wolves anywhere in the state will
increase the kill total. This year’s strategy also asserts that
the wolf population of 20-A is not to be reduced below 100,
from a pack officially estimated at 250 but probably less
than 100 already according to aerial survey work done by
wolf expert Gordon Haber in recent months, financed by
Friends of Animals with technical support provided by the
Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Wolf Haven International.
The object is to increase the Delta caribou herd,
which inhabits 20-A, from the present 4,000 animals to
between 6,000 and 8,000 by 1998. At that level, sport
hunters, who have been barred from shooting caribou in 20-
A since 1991, would be allowed to kill 300 to 500. Alaskan
officials claim the herd is in steep decline due to wolf preda-
tion, since it included as many as 10,700 animals circa
1980. However, the normal population of the Delta herd
over the past 60 years has been no more that 6,000 to 7,000.
Seeking to build support for wolf control, the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game on June 4 released
statistics showing apparent high predation mortality among
Delta herd caribou calves. But the Fish and Game statistics
also showed that in May of this year, only 30% of the Delta
herd caribou cows were pregnant, down from 85% to 95%
during the “normal” decade 1979-1988. The low fecundity
negates the significance of the predation mortality rate,
since fewer calves being born means fewer for the wolves to
hunt, and a normal or even reduced number of wolves could
accordingly kill a high percentage without actually killing
any more than they did a few years earlier. Further, the low
fecundity establishes that predation is not primarily respon-
sible for the caribou population decline. Probable causes
could include poor winter forage, noted by Haber, which
could result in caribou cows becoming infertile or reabsorb-
ing their fetuses (a trait of ungulates) due to malnutrition.
Years of heavy trophy hunting, together with light hunting
pressure on cows, could have produced a shortage of
mature bull caribou together with a disproportionately aged
cow population, many of them well past their peak fertility.
Although a moratorium on hunting in 20-A was imposed in
November 1991, the sex and age ratios of the caribou could
have become even more skewed because of continuing pres-
sure on the diminished number of bulls from poachers.
In addition, Wolf Haven International argues,
rapidly increasing snowmobile activity in the Delta region
could be disrupting breeding and causing much of the herd
to migrate elsewhere. Statistics obtained from the Alaska
Motor Vehicle Division confirm that the number of snow-
mobiles licensed in Fairbanks rose 15% between 1990 and
1992; 73% in the Fairbanks/Anchorage corridor; and 62%
in Alaska as a whole.
Except in the Fairbanks/Anchorage corridor,
Haber notes, “The statewide population of caribou is
increasing and has more than tripled in the past 15 years.”
Yet another problematic aspect of the wolf control
strategy is that while the wolves native to 20-A are not
radio-collared, the area is close to Denali National Park,
whose alpha wolves do wear radio collars and according to
Haber, spend 9% of their time outside Denali—often in 20-
A. Thus hunter/trappers could still use telemetry to track
and kill wolves.
Friends of Animals sued
In addition to sponsoring Haber’s aerial reconnai-
sance, Friends of Animals tried to head off the Board of
Game during the three weeks before the summer meeting by
mailing a warning of the impending wolf massacre to
150,000 eco-tourists; sent a boycott alert to 2,000 animal
protection groups; sent postcards preaddressed to Alaskan
officials to all FoA members; and published advertisements
protesting the official proposals in the June 17 issues of The
New York Times and USA Today.
Designed and placed on June 2, the ads said,
“Hunters will track radio-collared wolves from the air as
they are returning to their dens. Shooters will then land and
stake out the dens—and kill wolves as they return to care for
their pups. Orphaned pups will die slow deaths from starva-
tion and wolf families will be shattered. Later, hundreds
more wolves will be shot from airplanes.”
Tipped off that the ads were scheduled, the Alaska
Department of Fish and Game on June 8 issued a press
release withdrawing its requests for permission to kill
wolves as early as July 1, when mothers would still have
dependent cubs, and to kill wolves from aircraft. But by
law the Board of Game was still obliged to act upon the
original proposals, if only to discard them, and the new
Fish and Game proposals, essentially those the board adopt-
ed, had not been introduced with proper notice.
FoA went ahead with the ads as written. Alaska
governor Walter Hickel immediately directed state attorney
general Charlie Cole to sue FoA for libel, calling the group
“an unethical fringe of fanatics who think they are above the
truth,” adding that the whole purpose of the ads was to
make money. On June 22, Cole filed suit against FoA in
Anchorage Superior Court, said he would ask the U.S.
Postal Service to investigate FoA for mail fraud because the
ads included a one-line funding appeal, and also said he
would ask the Connecticut attorney general to investigate,
since FoA is based in Norwalk, Connecticut. Cole appar-
ently expected to serve the suit on FoA president Priscilla
Feral when she arrived in Fairbanks on June 26 to testify to
the Board of Game in opposition to wolf-killing. However,
preferring to fight the case in Connecticut rather than 4,000
miles away, where presenting a defense would be more
costly, Feral gave her time allotment to Haber and stayed
home. At the ANIMAL PEOPLE deadline FoA still hadn’t
been served, and even the Anchorage Daily News and pro-
hunting talk show host Morton Downey Jr. were ripping
Hickel for bad judgement in attempting to censor opposition.
Hickel’s office acknowledged June 27 that the FoA
wolf campaign was bringing in 1,100 cards and letters a
day. As of July 1, however, wolf-related donations to FoA
were still far short of meeting the campaign expenses.
Alaska thumbs nose at boycott
Joining FoA on June 29 in a renewed tourism boy-
cott, as the Board of Game strategy moved toward finaliza-
tion, were the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, In Defense of
Animals, Wolf Haven International, and the North
American Wolf Foundation. The Fund for Animals, which
joined last winter’s boycott almost a month after the other
major participants, didn’t mention the possibility of a
renewed boycott in two pro-wolf ads placed in the June 25
New York Times, but then joined the boycott on July 1,
minutes after the Board of Game meeting ended.
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks and
Conservation Association, heavy hitters in last winter’s
boycott, were still reviewing their options as A N I M A L
PEOPLE went to press. Strategically awkward considera-
tions for Defenders and the NPCA are that the current
Alaskan wolf-killing quotas are only slightly higher than the
122 wolves killed by the federal Animal Damage Control
Program in Minnesota during 1992, where wolves are an
endangered species, and that the Alaskan rationale for wolf-
killing is identical to that of the Yukon Territory, in
Canada, where 60 to 70 wolves have been shot from air-
craft so far this year, also purportedly to boost caribou
numbers. While animal protection groups have also
opposed these wolf massacres, the conservation groups
have held back.
Alaska Division of Tourism director Connel
Murray told ANIMAL PEOPLE that the renewed boycott
would flop. “My correspondence showed that the over-
whelming objection of most persons was toward aerial con-
trol,” Murray said. “With this threat eliminated, support
for a boycott is bound to fade. The timing works to our
advantage, since our tourism programs for this year are in
effect completed.” Further, Murray added, “Our experi-
ence in major consumer shows has led us to conclude that
there has actually been very little knowledge of, or interest
in, game management in Alaska.”
Nonetheless, the Division of Tourism opened a
major promotion in New York on June 23. Alaskan tourism
was up 16% this summer, but at a cost, as Holland America
and other cruise lines brought in late bookings by cutting
fares to nearly half price.
The Alaska legislature, dominated by pro-wolf-
killing Republicans, meanwhile warned the tourism indus-
try not to again oppose wolf-killing, slashing funding to the
Alaska Tourism Marketing Council by $500,000 and threat-
ening to altogether abolish the public/private body, whose
work parallels that of the Division of Tourism.
“The question that I have to concern myself with is
the appropriate use of state monies,” said House State
Affairs Committee chair Al Vezey. “Are we using state
monies to fund organizations that are really trying to prevent
us from protecting what most Alaskans feel is a quality of
life issue?” In fact, polls show most Alaskans oppose wolf
––Merritt Clifton
Alaska governor Walter Hickel may be
addressed at P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811.
Division of tourism director Connel Murray may be
addressed at P.O. Box 110801, Juneau, AK 99811.
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.