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Predator Management Information Answers Questions
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is releasing several publications this month on predator management in Alaska. There is a great deal of interest in this controversial topic, and lots of questions.
Based on the calls, e-mails, letters, and faxes received at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, there also appears to be widespread misperceptions and misunderstandings about predator management in Alaska. During the past year alone, this fact has been reflected in a number of statements received by the department.
Among the statements; “Wolves are almost extinct in Alaska and you are killing the last ones,” “You are killing wolves because you hate them. Why do you hate wolves?” “You are killing wolves just for the fun of it,” and “Predator control does not work.” One woman wrote that predator control has been created as a “new sport for rich bored men.”
While these statements illustrate a lack of understanding on one side of the issue, other comments suggest a lack of understanding on the other side as well. Although less prevalent, the department receives comments from people asking why the department isn’t taking any action to reduce predators.
These misperceptions and misunderstandings are not especially surprising given the existing nature of the information available to the public. One Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group claimed recently on their website that Alaskans “…aim to virtually eliminate wolves…” and a recent fundraising campaign opened with, “Trophy hunters in Alaska are loading their shotguns…”
A letter from a consortium of Alaska environmental groups insists that the department should not provide information to the public regarding predator management. Such an effort is a “gross misuse of public resources,” they claim.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a responsibility to provide the public with accurate information on this and other issues. Predator management is a complex and emotionally charged subject and it is understandable that people have strong personal opinions. While this is expected and normal, reasoned discussions and decisions can be best achieved if opinions are based on realities rather than misconceptions.
The department has been working since May to create a publication on the state’s Intensive Management program, including predator control. Dozens of wildlife managers and researchers contributed input to a comprehensive 30-page technical report. The department recognized that this document would be especially useful to the scientific community, but that the general public would likely find it difficult to wade through. Therefore, the department also created a 24-page booklet for the general public, as well as a one-page brochure. These publications highlight the legal, social, and biological aspects of predator control, detail how and where predator control is implemented, look at alternatives to lethal control, and provide information about predator and prey animals in Alaska.
For more information, see: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=intensivemanagement.main
Printed copies of the booklet and the one-page brochure will also be available at Fish and Game offices and other outlets.
In the interest of better understanding this complex and sensitive issue, the department encourages people to obtain and review these materials, and to seek accurate and informed answers to any lingering questions. An informed citizenry is the best foundation for constructive discussions and practical decisions.
Wildlife biologist Doug Larsen is the director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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