“Difficult to gauge wolf control impact” is John Schandelmeier’s insightful column on wildlife conditions in Alaska’s Game Management Unit 13 (Anchorage Daily News, April 30, 2012 ). For a lone observer he does an excellent job of assessing the situation. It is actually the job of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Board of Game to “gauge wolf control impact”---but Mr. Schandelmeier is doing their work for them! Oh, some Alaska wildlife officials may suspect what rampant wolf-killing has done to the ecosystem, but I doubt they know much more than Mr. Schandelmeier. Even though they have more resources and it is their job to know, Alaska‘s wildlife officials are beholden to---and in many cases are---the hunting establishment. The public is only grudgingly included in the wildlife management process. Whether wildlife officials know what is going on in the land or not, they are not telling us near as much as Mr. Schandelmeier is telling us about what has happened to wild Alaska as a result of the State’s one-note policy of “intensive predator control.” Mr. Schandelmeier makes the point that many other species seem to be suffering in Unit
13 as a result of the killing of mass numbers of wolves. It has become an unbalanced and unhealthy ecosystem. “Wolves are a necessary part of the eco-pyramid; remove them and the entire structure will collapse.”
More or less like Game Management Unit 13, Alaska has become a giant moose farm. This sprawling moose farm is almost directly “managed” by private “sportsmen’s” clubs and a cabal of professional hunting “guides“---but if Alaska were a private moose farm or game preserve it would be literally bankrupted by now. On this here “moose farm” the Alaska public provides the land, the game and the operating costs to continuously compensate for the corruption and incompetence of officials. And for what?
There is less and less wildlife diversity and numbers because there is no diversity on the Board of Game (as mandated by the state constitution), in Fish and Game, or, for that matter, within the Alaska State Legislature. The Legislature just coughed up three-million dollars for a private, well-intentioned, but totally crackpot scheme---”relocating” “problem” moose from Anchorage for hunters in areas where moose are “scarce.” Not a single animal has yet been “relocated.” This program is doomed---and so is Alaska’s wildlife under the current form of “stewardship.”
The environment has been jiggered. The ecosystem has been disrupted. All animals have suffered, many species have declined, and there is not all that great of an increase in moose and caribou to warrant the gutting of Fish and Game of its science, the huge expenditures, the disruption to the ecosystem, the terrible anguish of ongoing mass killings and the flaunting of the Alaska State Constitution.
The problem is as simple-minded as the State’s policy of “kill wolves and bears and the moose will come.” Hunters and the hunting establishment have gotten pretty much what they wanted from Alaska’s politicians---but they have never been able to get enough of what they wanted from Nature: Lots of easy moose kills!
Here in the Hatcher Pass area I can also give my anecdotal observations: Wolves and bears have been “controlled” simply by unrelenting, motorized overhunting---as has everything else. There is not as much poaching and illegal hunting going on anymore---there is hardly any wildlife left to poach! This place is a desolate, wildlife death zone. Just about everything wild that flies, walks, runs or crawls is gone or in decline. Hatcher Pass is an empty land and getting more empty each year. It is a vision of the future for Alaska’s wild lands and wildlife unless the public takes a more active interest.
- Rudy Wittshirk