For Immediate Release: Jan 10, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
State Agrees to National Academy Review of Scientific Merits as Opposition Mounts
Washington, DC —For the first time in years, Alaska is reducing its state program for lethal removal of predators to pump up populations of game animals, according to state records obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This step-back occurs as opposition to predator control programs continues to grow both within the state and on the national level.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) documents indicate that in 2018, it will –
- Cut the number of predator control programs planned by more than half. In prior years, the state has conducted as many as 8 or more separate predator control programs simultaneously, but this year plans to conduct only 4 such programs:
- Scale back total expected take of wolves to between 130 and 150 wolves, compared to the average take of more than 200 wolves per year recently, a more than 25% reduction; and
- Kill no bears in its predator control program. For the first time in more than a decade, no bears are slated for “removal” in contrast to the more than 150 black bears and 10 brown bears taken in recent years.
“While this reduction is good news, this program is still unnecessary, unscientific, unethical, and an utter waste of public money,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member, noting that it cost the state as much as $42,000 for each bear it killed, but ADFG could not show any positive effect of bear removal on prey populations. “For $42,000, we could have flown each bear to Hawaii for the season and back for hibernation.”
Opposition to Alaska’s predator control program has grown both in state and nationally. In 2016 for example, 150 Alaskans sent a letter to Governor Bill Walker asking that he rein in the state’s predator control programs. The state declined but since then there has been a great deal of public pushback against Alaska’s predator control programs nationally. In 2017, the issue of killing wolf pups and bear cubs at their dens inside Alaskan national preserves and wildlife refuges was again a political flash point.
Significantly, Alaska has agreed to participate in an independent National Academy of Sciences review of its predator control programs for the first time in 20 years since the administration of Governor Tony Knowles (1994-2002), the only governor in Alaska history to prohibit lethal predator control programs.
“Science shows we can do for more for moose, caribou, and deer populations by protecting their habitat from poorly conceived development projects – such as the Pebble mine – than by killing wolves and bears,” commented former Governor Knowles, who convened the first National Academy of Sciences review of Alaska’s predator control programs in 1997 and convinced current Gov. Walker to participate in a follow-up study. “We shouldn’t be manipulating the extraordinary natural diversity of wildlife and wild ecosystems in Alaska.”
One indication of the state’s sensitivity to public backlash is its policy of prohibiting any photographs of its predator control (euphemistically called Intensive Management or IM) activities. Past images of aerial gunning of wolves in Alaska have sparked campaigns to end the practice.
“Alaska and other states treat predator control like the proverbial sausage, deciding it is better not to see either being made,” state PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Both the lack of transparency and the shaky scientific basis for these predator removal operations may ultimately be their undoing.”