ALASKA’S PREDATOR HOLOCAUST: “INTENSIVE MANAGEMENT”
IS IT REALLY THE BEST WAY TO INCREASE HARVESTS OF MOOSE AND CARIBOU
?

by Stephen F. Stringham, PhD
(This is a slightly modified version of an article that was published in the Redoubt Reporter on Wednesday 14
December 2011, prefacing a meeting that night of the Kenai-Soldotna (regional) Fish & Game Advisory Committee
(AC), that was voting on whether or not to support killing most wolves and bears on the Kenai Peninsula – a form of
predator control so extreme that it is popularly known as “Alaska’s Predator Holocaust,” but masked by the official
title “intensive management.”  
 

The AC’s  recommendation is forwarded to the State Board of Game (BOG), along with recommendations from
other regional AC’s on the Kenai Peninsula.  Then the BOG will make whatever decision it wants, rationalizing that
decision as public will if the majority of AC’s voted in favor of predator control, or ignoring public will if the majority
voteds against predator control – at least that is how events have progressed in previous years when this was
voted on.

Although I studied predator-prey dynamics during the 1980’s, I have not kept up on recent scientific literature
thoroughly enough  to still  claim expertise.  Rather, I claim only enough insight to recognize when the public is
being flim-flammed on the subject and to point out the kinds of information necessary to make effective decisions –
without which a Predator Holocaust is unlikely to help moose and caribou, to say nothing of the unwarranted
damage it would inflict to other species and ecosystems
Whatever my personal feelings about predator control, my professional stance must be that all management  
decisions should be based on sufficient science to be sure that management of “game” species does not seriously
disrupt the ecosystems of which those species are components.  Steve)

Reading recent Letters to the Editor of various regional newspapers suggests that the majority of the Alaskan
public believes that the key to increasing harvests of moose and caribou is killing their major non-human predators:
wolves and bears.  A tacit argument is made that this is a democracy and that the majority rules.  Interesting that
majority rule is invoked only once a majority has been convinced to support some political agenda, not when the
majority opposes it.

In any event, public will on predator control is based on what the public knows of how predators, prey, and habitat
interact on the Kenai Peninsula.  Unfortunately, their knowledge has been badly tainted by mis-information in the
form of accidental errors or deliberate propaganda from both pro-predator and anti-predator advocates.  Two half-
truths do not one whole truth make.

For example, the Governor Palin administration’s program to “educate” the public about Alaska’s Predator
Holocaust did more to spout anti-predator dogma than it did to critique that dogma to expose and correct any flaws
in its applicability to the Kenai Peninsula.  (The issue is not whether predator control can be a useful tool, but how
that tool is best used in this situation, integrated with other management tools.)

Listening to the Alaska’s Predator Holocaust sales pitch reminded me of the way that Jack Abramoff convinced
clients to invest in his Ponzi-like schemes.  Potential new clients were so dazzled by testimonials from previous
investors about sudden, risk-free profits that they succumbed to wishful thinking.  They refused to listen to skeptics
who warned that it was all too good to be true.  And they declined to do their homework.

Alaska’s Predator Holocaust has likewise dazzled “hunters” with the notion that all the ills of our moose and caribou
populations can be solved by killing most wolves and bears.  It sounds soooo good that it mussst be true.  It HAS to
be true because “Jack” told us so.

On the contrary.  Reliable, long-term profitability – whether from financial investments or wildlife populations – can
be consistently achieved only through careful research and sound analysis.  No amount of testimony from the
general public will provide that.  This requires professionals with deep knowledge of how predator control, habitat
manipulation, and other tools are best used to maximize public benefits.  

Fortunately, we have a wealth of such professionals at hand.  Among these are current agency personnel such as
Jeff Sellinger (ADF&G) and John Morton (USFWS), plus retired agency personnel such as Rick Sinnot (ADF&G)
and Vic VanBallenberghe (USFWS), as well as consultants like myself.  

If the AC were to give several of us an opportunity for a panel discussion, we could explain predator-prey
relationships on the Kenai Pensinula and make predictions on the costs, benefits, and unintended consequences
of implementing a Predator Holocaust here.  But we cannot do it meaningfully in the 3-5 minutes apiece offered by
the AC.  Half-an-hour apiece would be more reasonable. Given that advocates of Predator Holocaust have already
had a great many opportunities to express their position, I suspect that all their key points could be made by a
single articulate individual such as BOG Vice Chair Ted Spraker.  I would also suggest adding one representative
of a local conservation organization such as the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.  As is normal in scientific symposia, each
panel member would make a presentation, then answer any probing questions from other panel members or from
the audience.

This would, of course, require demanding that agencies unmuzzle their biologists so that the public can hear their
individual professional judgments, not just departmental positions which have been heavily shaped by political
pressure.  Whether the hand covering our mouths reaches out from Washington D.C. or from Juneau, Big Brother
bullying us is an unwanted intrusion into our lives.  It corrupts both science and democracy.

Meanwhile, how will the AC proceed?  Will its recommendations be based on ballot box biology about the benefits
and costs of Alaska’s Predator Holocaust?  Or will the AC demand that the BOG delay any decision about Predator
Holocaust on the Kenai Peninsula at least until our populace finally has a chance to learn the real facts -- the whole
spectrum of facts, not just those cherry-picked to further some political agenda?  

Your decision could have a major influence on the long-term sustained health and yield from our wildlife
populations.


Stephen F. Stringham, PhD
President, WildWatch (Research, consulting, and educational services)

(Unfortunately, the AC decided to vote in favor of Predator Holocaust before any of us had an opportunity to
provide input.  Steve)
Index of  Bear  Webpages
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
(c) 2016 S. Stringham
Index of  Bear  Webpages
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
(c) 2016 S. Stringham