The first of the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson wolf pack to die was shot by an employee of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in January. It is hoped a state-sanctioned trapper will in the weeks ahead be able to discreetly eliminate the other four to six wolves in the pack. If not, a first-of-its-kind aerial wolf hunt could possibly be under way by spring on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city.
Aerial wolf hunts have become almost the norm in the 49th state over the past decade as attitudes toward predators have shifted away from the post-Earth Day "love fest" of the 1980s and 1990s. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing an aerial hunt in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge to aid the struggling Unimak Island caribou herd.
On Unimak, as has been the case elsewhere in Alaska, scientists propose to kill wolves because of what they do. Wonderfully adapted killing machines, wolves in Alaska prey on moose or, in the case of Unimak, caribou. And they are not always selective about how they do it. Wolves answer to their stomachs, not to any human-devised principles of conservation. Hungry wolves do not worry that if they kill too many caribou this winter there might be too few caribou left alive come spring to ensure the survival of the species.
Wolves do not contemplate the future. Wolves function in the here and now. When they are hungry, they try to kill. And if they are lucky and make a kill, they feast.
Elmendorf wolf pack to be eliminated with extreme prejudice
At Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on the northern edge of Anchorage, however, this is not the problem with wolves. There are plenty of surplus moose for the wolves to eat. But the Elmendorf pack seems to have developed a taste for a somewhat smaller, easier-to-kill prey -- man's best friend, the dog. And it is the danger inherent in wolves hunting dogs that has pushed Alaska Fish and Game and the Department of Defense to the conclusion that the Elmendorf pack should be eliminated, as the military might say, "with extreme prejudice."
The death warrant for the four to six wolves believed to be in the pack was sealed not because of what wolves do or what these wolves might actually have done, but because of what they might do. There is, confessed Fish and Game area regional wildlife supervisor Mark Burch, a legitimate fear that one of these wolves could attack and kill a human, possibly because someone tried to protect their dog. But possibly, too, because killing is what wolves do. ...
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