Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wolf control program up and running by weeks' end?

The Alaska Board of Game has been meeting by teleconference to address problems in the legal technicalities by which it allowed wolf control to proceed in several places in Alaska this winter. The state's attorney working on the issue says the program should be operational again by the end of the week, according to KTUU news in Anchorage.

An Alaska Superior Court judge had ruled that the program was insufficiently justified within the framework of rules that the board had established earlier.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has amply demonstrated over the years that 1) wolf control works; 2) it can be applied for relatively brief periods with good results; and 3) Alaska's overall wolf population is not harmed by this approach.

An interesting side argument in this whole business is that moose and caribou can be raised and harvested at lower environmental cost than equivalent quantities of beef. Professor Sam Harbo of the University of Alaska proposed in the 1980's that it makes more environmental sense to occasionally control wolves and reap the protein benefits of more moose and caribou than it does to ship equivalent quantities of beef to Alaska. Cattle are raised at substantial environmental cost: land lost to wildlife, fossil fuel consumption, erosion, reduction of native grass species, pollution, and so forth.

The trouble is that wolves must be controlled: killed, normally. But to carry Professor Harbo's thoughts a little further, it seems logical to assume that fewer TOTAL animals die when wolves are controlled. Again, to use beef instead of moose and caribou, all of the above environmental consequences ensue -- all of which ultimately lead to the death of wild animals.

I sometimes wonder if the jihad against active management of wildlife is really more about money than wildlife. If it was about wildlife, the jihadists would select battles in which wildlife populations or habitat actually benefited if won. That's certainly not the case here: Alaska's wolves are in no danger, as 30 years of wolf management by the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game have demonstrated. Whether their ceaseless campaigning succeeds or fails, Alaska's wolf numbers change very little.

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