Whether you favor or oppose predator control, with or without aerial shooting, the State’s juggling of this political
hot potato warrants concern about its respect for democratic process and scientific integrity.

Twice before, Alaskans have voted against aerial shooting of “predators.”  Twice before, the State derided the
vote as “ballot box biology.”

As voting on a new initiative approached in late summer 2008, Board of Game (BoG) members toured Alaskan
communities arguing that aerial shooting is essential for reducing predators enough to achieve target moose and
caribou harvests.  "Intensive management," they claimed, is the only strategy justified by the scientific evidence.

Really?  Biologically, do predator numbers actually have to be drastically reduced to restore balance with their
prey?  Is aerial hunting essential to achieving this?  Politically, were BoG presentations and literature educational
or propaganda that illegally lobbied against the Measure 2?


Yes, this time the BoG did prevail in convincing voters to turn down Measure 2, the ballot initiative to ban aerial
shooting of wildlife.  Does this illustrate democracy at work?  Or does it illustrate how easily incumbent special
interests can confuse issues, disinform the public, and control elections?


Actual education explains how key statistics were derived.  It gives a hearing to all sides of an issue.  BoG did
neither.  BoG ignored most concerns of the
National Academy of Sciences in its report Wolves, Bears and Their
Prey in Alask
a, as-well-as more recent information on predator-prey ecology – information suggesting that
intensive management” could backfire, adversely affecting moose and caribou.


1.
BoG proposes restoring moose and caribou numbers to their habitat’s carrying capacity (“K”).  Is that wise?  
Populations near K are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and predation; sustainable yield is low.
Health and yield are maximized well below K -- in some cases as low as 50%K.*  So why is K BoG’s target, despite
the deleterious effects of overcrowding?

(  *The State defines carrying capacity as the maximum number of animals a habitat will sustain. That's like asking
how many gold fish can fit into an aquarium?  You could fill it to the brim with fish, but they'd soon start dying.  The
real issue is how many can the aquarium -- the habitat -- sustain long-term.  This requires keeping animal
numbers low enough that they don't over-graze their habitat and reduce its future food production capacity, and
so that the spread of disease doesn't skyrocket.)


2.
BoG claimed that predators take up to 80% of all moose and caribou dying?
2a.  Under what conditions?  How much is non-hunting mortality governed by predator abundance vs.
environmental conditions (e.g., snow depth)?
2b.  Isn’t 80% a worst-case scenario?  What’s the average percent eaten by predators? Under what
circumstances?
2c.  How many of the prey eaten are killed by predators, rather than by malnutrition, winter severity, etc?


3.
Of prey killed by predators, how many are “walking carrion” that would have died anyway? What
proportion of prey spared from predation would be available for hunter harvest? Implying anything near 100% is
comicbook biology.


4.  
Most game is harvested where access is easy -- near a road, trail, river or lake.  Where access is poor,
decimating predators might backfire.  High predator populations in remote areas might drive prey towards areas
easily accessed by hunters.


5.  
Prey moving from place to place to avoid predators causes the prey animals to “graze” their home range more
evenly, enhancing its productivity.
 Prey that stay in small areas may over-graze and suffer from more contagious
disease.


6.  Predators focus on easy – ill, injured or old – prey more often than on the prime adults, especially males, that
most hunters prefer.  
Predation may partly counteract harvest impacts, keeping age-sex ratios closer to
optimum than harvest alone does.


7.  Snowshoe hare and rodents compete with moose for willow stems, a food especially crucial during winter.
These competitors sometimes girdle so much willow that they limit the supply for moose.  
Wolf predation on
hares and rodents could increase food supply for moose.


8.  Willow are also a major source of protein for moose during spring when new calves are produced.  Protein
production requires nitrogen.  At lower latitudes, plants get most of their nitrogen from air.  This is far less effective
in Alaska’s cold wet soils.  Willow can, however, get nitrogen from decaying salmon scraps and dung left by bears
and wolves.  
Drastically reducing predator or salmon numbers could impair future moose productivity.


9.  Optimum ratios of predators to prey will vary situationally.  BoG should tailor management tactics to local
conditions rather than employing a one size fits all strategy across vast areas of the state.


10.
 Bear populations are far more vulnerable than wolf populations to over-harvest.  Yet, ADF&G is not
closely monitoring bear numbers in predator-control zones much less in non-control zones. True sustained yield
predator management requires careful, detailed monitoring of all major factors affecting prey and predator
populations before, during and after predator reduction periods.  Only thus can the benefits of predator control be
maximized while its impacts – e.g., on hunting and on hundreds of millions of dollars of ecotourism income -- are
minimized.


These are but a few of the issues that make predator-prey experts skeptical that “intensive management” really
optimizes hunter harvest.


So long as the State fails to address these and other controversial points, its truths will remain half-truths where
advocacy trumps objectivity, and propaganda masquerades as  education.  Worse, its battle against so-called
“ballot box biology” will remain more fundamentally a battle against democracy – against having government
policies guided by the pubic will rather than by politicians and special interest groups.

IS ADVOCACY TRUMPING OBJECTIVITY IN ALASKA’S PREDATOR
CONTROL LITERATURE AND DECISION-MAKING?
wolf, wolves,predators, predator management, population viability,  predator control, bear safety, bears, grizzly, black bears, bear viewing, bear behavior, Sarah Palin, predator control, slaughter, extermination, books, videos, conservation, stewardship, aerial hunting, aerial shooting, holocaust, adventure, Alaska, Board of Game, consulting, impacts
Something around here sure stinks a lot worse than ultra-ripe socks!
(c) 1972  Olaf Hjeljord
wolf, wolves,predators, predator management, population viability,  predator control, bear safety, bears, grizzly, black bears, bear viewing, bear behavior, Sarah Palin, predator control, slaughter, extermination, books, videos, conservation, stewardship, aerial hunting, aerial shooting, holocaust, adventure, Alaska, Board of Game, consulting, impacts
Wolf catches rainpants blown away by the wind.
(c) 1972  Olaf Hjeljord
RIGHT TO LIFE?
Homepage of ALASKA'S PREDATOR HOLOCAUST
Bear Viewing Association
To watch, to wonder and to conserve
Bear Viewing Association
To watch, to wonder, and to conserve
gobearviewing@hotmail.com
Ph/Fax (907) 260-9059 (Office)
39200 Alma Ave.    Soldotna, AK  99669
bear viewing Alaska, bear photography, bear safety, bear behavior



Answers to questions commonly asked by wildlife viewers on the topics listed below:
Bear Viewing Association
To watch, to wonder, and to conserve
gobearviewing@hotmail.com
Ph/Fax (907) 260-9059 (Office)
39200 Alma Ave.    Soldotna, AK  99669
bear viewing Alaska, bear photography, bear safety, bear behavior