Alaskans are keen to spot the slightest hint of government subsidies, entitlements and the faintest forms of “welfare”---if someone else is getting it. But when they themselves are the beneficiaries it becomes a sacred “right.”
Having allowed the great moose herds to be wiped out by heavily motorized, recreational over-hunting, the State of Alaska has promised to bring them back by wiping out wolves and bears. It’s a wan hope---like the Plains Indians who longed for the return of the buffalo and their traditional, free lifestyle. Except it wasn’t the Indians who wiped out the buffalo. The great herds never returned and were replaced by cattle and sheep. [Note: I personally observed the once-great moose herds of Hatcher Pass get wiped out by motorized hordes of hunters. And then, when the bulls were hunted out, the State administered the coup de grace with some disastrous cow hunts, leaving bewildered calves to fend for themselves! And yet, the moose hunts go on...]
Despite the loss of habitat and a variety of other reasons why the moose will never recover, the State of Alaska has chosen to focus on one emotional and dramatic scapegoat---wild predators. Killing wolves and bears won’t work and can’t work but it‘s a favorite of the guns and motors crowd with their political clout and limited knowledge of Nature. See this article in Alaska Dispatch---it’s dry and “scientifical” but it states the facts the State does not:
Alaska's Moose Management: Science or Comic-Book Biology? | Alaska Dispatch
Even if killing wolves and bears temporarily produces a few more moose or caribou for hunters it’s still a state-sponsored entitlement, subsidy and government welfare program for a privileged minority---most of whom don’t really need the meat. The wildlife management slogan “common use” sounds like “equality,” but with only a few moose available it actually means that the guy with the biggest, most expensive fleet of vehicles has the best chance of getting one. Anyone who can afford to go moose hunting in Alaska today is in no danger of starving. Let me put it another way---most moose go to those families who can afford not to get one.
Game management slogans such as “subsistence use” and “depend on” are also bullwash. When equipment costs are factored in with public costs, a chunk of Alaska moose must be one of the most expensive cuts of meat on the Planet this side of Kobe beef. Alaska’s newly renamed “predation-control” programs are government subsidies to the well-to-do, the “sports,” the guiding industry, the recreational vehicle sales industries and the other service and equipment providers. Alaska’s “moose enhancement” programs are mostly publicly-funded welfare for the rich. So, what else is new in America these days?
In today’s money economy few Alaskans can be defined as “subsistence” users. “Common use” and “subsistence” are contradictory and incompatible---real subsistence users always come out on the short end of the moose rib. Sports hunters don’t qualify---they are required to “salvage” and presumably eat the meat anyway. “Consumptive use” is simply a slogan intended to imply that recreational users are “subsistence users”---without coming right out and totally lying about it.
What about the “depend-ons?“ The “Bush” and “rural“ hunters who really “need the meat.” If these “locals” honestly “depend on” moose or caribou to survive---and if predators are verifiably destroying that resource---then those “depend-ons” should be well motivated to do their own predator control and not have the rest of us paying for the industrial-strength slaughter. They can eat the bear meat and sell the wolf pelts for income as was “traditionally“ done before Supercubs and helicopters. But the “locals” have become accustomed to eating “high off the moose.”
Although “locals” are used as poster children to justify predator killing, they are not fools. Since there is no such thing as “rural preference” or “subsistence preference,” “locals” are not going to beat up their machines and waste their time killing predators so guides, outside hunters and urban hunters can wing in on floatplanes and take any extra moose and caribou. “Common use” simply means that everyone gets a shot at a moose---whether they need it or not.
Real “subsistence use”---where those few who actually need the meat to survive get some sort of preference---has been killed off by entitlement-sniffing Alaskans who want the moose for their own recreational pleasures and commercial greed. Alaskans---from courts to politicians to organized sports hunting groups---worked hard to totally reject any management concept based on actual, true “subsistence” need for those few who live close to the land (“rural preference“). So much for “subsistence!”
The politicians of Alaska have placed Fish and Game in an impossible situation. Alaska is hunted out but politicians promise “hunting opportunities” for all---so Fish and Game is expected to make Nature pump out unsustainable numbers of moose so the sustained over-hunting can continue. The way current laws and regulations are interpreted makes everyone dishonest---the politicians and the hunting establishment have corrupted every aspect of wildlife management. Incompetents have been deliberately chosen to head up a State agency which now knows and does nothing else but kill wolves and bears to fulfill empty political promises Nature can never deliver. Since incompetence and corruption always occur together, Alaska‘s Division of Fish and Game is, unsurprisingly, one of our most corrupt State agencies (see "Governor Parnell, Show Some Respect for Wildlife, and Alaskans" by Tina M. Brown / Comment / Juneau Empire / March 19, 2012.)
A lot of moose are dying in the heavy snows this Winter and you know what that means. Our single-minded wildlife stewards will announce that the predator-killing will intensify so the herds can “recover.” The madness will only escalate until the people wake up. Predator control is a monstrous welfare subsidy that is being applied whether it works or not. And the less it works the more it is applied. Witness the following from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 5, 2012:
“Alaska Game Board OKs Aerial Bear Control in Kuskokwim Region” by Tim Mowry.
An aerial wolf control program has been in place in Unit 19A since 2004. Private pilots and gunners with permits from the state have reduced the wolf population by at least 60 percent each year since 2005, but there has been no increase in moose numbers, according to the department’s proposal to the board.
“Adding bear removal to the predation control program should help address this issue,” the department wrote in its proposal.
Killing all those wolves did nothing so the Board of Game just voted to kill all bears in a 540-square mile area of the middle Kuskokwim River region. State employees will be shooting bears from helicopters. That’s textbook “extermination“---something the State swore to us it would never do. So what else is new?
A reasonable person would suppose the guiding-hunting-establishment now in charge of wildlife management in Alaska will moderate its excesses at some point. But the intrepid Board of Game just approved aerial wolf killing on the Kenai Peninsula---even though a biologist made a clear presentation that evening that there is more of a loss of habitat problem than anything else and they haven't yet completed the studies. Don‘t expect moderation. Fish and Game and Board of Game lackeys will seek to destroy as many predators as possible and will seek to emplace as many guiding-industry-friendly programs as possible before they inevitably get kicked out of power.
Driven by forces of recreational, commercial and political greed, wildlife managers in Alaska have now entered their “bigger hammer” phase. Politicians can “mandate” their brains out but Nature can produce only so many moose. For those who live by slogans, here’s one: You can fool with Nature but you can’t fool Nature.
Meanwhile, wildlife continues to die and dwindle. Politicians will never admit that “intensive management,“ “predator control,” “consumptive use,” “abundance management” and all the other fancy slogans they’ve dreamed up are just that---empty slogans to camouflage the truth that the wildlife has been and is being wiped out by over-hunting. That’s why Alaska now has a costly, inefficient, gruesome, industrial-strength system of moose farming---to subsidize the recreational equipment cult that has become “hunting” in Alaska.
The days of easy-kill moose are long gone---too many hunters are now riding around on too many machines chasing after too few moose. The only realistic solution will be wildly unpopular with the entire hunting establishment---moose permits! Alaska moose are now more rare than ever and, just like sheep or goats, a permit should be required to hunt one. Too bad! Tough! But it’s inevitable because the over-hunting is unsustainable and eventually the public will stop funding moose costing $50,000 apiece so that the well-off can ride around pretending to be subsistence pioneers.
As for actual “subsistence,“ if someone can prove they and their families will suffer terribly if they don’t get a moose, they can be issued a yearly, true, bona fide, actual, genuine, honest “subsistence permit” based solely and purely on one thing---need. None of this “customary” or “usual” or “Tier I” or “Tier II” crap. Moose permits won’t cure the stupidity or corruption but should control some of the worst greed, lies and bloody excesses.
- Rudy Wittshirk