Alaska’s Intensive Destruction

Alaska’s Intensive Predator Management: The Shocking Reality/Part II

Our first short report was on the intensive management program utilized in Game Management Unit (GMU) 34b, today we are focusing on intensive management for moose with wolf predation control in GMU 13.

The predation control program in GMU 13 was originally authorized by the Board of Game in March 2000, included units 13A, 13B, and 13E, and began in 2003. In March 2005 the IM area increased to include Unit 13C. The program was renewed again in October 2010 through 2016. In February 2016 the intensive management program was again renewed through 2027.

This year alone a total of 235 wolves will be killed throughout GMU 13A, 13B, 13C, and 13E. 14,188 square miles were opened to wolf predation control from a program area of 15,416 square miles.

“The widespread claim that wolf populations can withstand 25–50% or greater annual reductions without major biological consequences is based primarily on the observation that populations often maintain their size from year to year as harvest or control continues or recover within a few years afterward. This emphasis on numerical status overlooks the likelihood of major, lingering impacts on the size, number, stability, and persistence of family-group social units, on reproductive, hunting, and territorial behavior, on the role of learning and related traditions, on within-and between-group patterns of genetic variation, and on overall mortality rates. The tendency of biologists and agencies in northern North America to promote wolf harvests that are four to eight times greater than ungulate harvests, in accord with the wolf versus ungulate difference in reproductive rates but contradictory to a broad array of differences in social organization and related behavior, is reason enough to question the logic of this prevailing management view.”

—Gordon C. Haber

Area under intensive management for moose in GMU 13

Alaska’s lethal predator control tactics are based on poor science and inadequate predator-prey population surveys, are unethical, and because they prioritize consumptive use of wildlife over non-consumptive use are disrupting the balance of ecosystems; increasing ungulate populations beyond carrying capacity degrades habitat, a major driver of biodiversity loss and species abundance reduction. Management of ungulate populations at or above ecological carrying capacity can risk nutritional limitation, and increased population vulnerability during severe winters. An independent, scientific review of the program, similar to one done in 1997 by the National Academies of Sciences is long overdue, though the inclusion of ethical responsibilities, would be refreshing.

While predators are “removed” in other areas of the United States, usually for livestock depredation, Alaska is unique as a place where both brown and black bears, as well as gray wolves are deliberately targeted for population reductions in efforts to increase human harvests of wild ungulate prey species and this priority is mandated by state statute. “To restore the abundance or productivity of identified big game prey populations as necessary to achieve human consumptive use goals in an area where the board has determined that consumptive use of the big game prey population is a preferred use,” and are “important for human consumption” (Alaska Statute 16.02.255) acquired the force of law with the passage in 1994 of Alaska’s Intensive Management Law, mandating management to reduce large carnivores and increase potential human harvests of wild ungulates. The Alaska Intensive Management programs continue with, or more often without, carefully collected data with regards to the impacts on large carnivores or the ecosystems that both the prey species and carnivores depend upon.

The law specifies that Intensive Management must occur when the Alaska Board of Game makes a finding that the harvestable numbers of ungulates are insufficient to meet human demand for game meat. Under this law, before the Board can change hunting regulations to reduce human take of ungulate species, Intensive Management is required first. These programs specify wolf reductions of 60-80 percent for at least five years, though the numbers provided indicate more severe reductions at times, and despite research that indicates killing wolves at annual rates of 15-20 percent or higher appears to produce lingering biological impacts even when numbers recover to prior levels. The Board of Game also ignores scientific evidence which indicates that the removal or significant reduction of large carnivores can trigger a chain of events that can create a downward spiral toward ecosystem simplification (Ripple W.J., et al.).

This statute contains 317 words excluding definitions, less than one-half page of text. Remarkably few words for a law that is unique to Alaska, that transformed wildlife management there, that led to application of drastic, extreme predator control programs featuring aerial shooting of wolves by private pilots, gassing of wolf pups in dens, trapping of bears, shooting bears from helicopters and sale of bear body parts. — Vic Van Ballenberghe

Wolf Control Program Overview

“Programs are conducted by selected resident citizen pilot/gunner teams that receive discretionary state permits authorizing same-day-airborne (SDA) landing and shooting and/or aerial shooting from aircraft. To obtain one of these permits, an application must be submitted to the department, and authorized pilots and gunners will be notified if selected. Nonresidents cannot participate in the wolf control program. Please note that this program is wolf control, not wolf hunting.”


Intensive management for moose with wolf predation control in GMU 13 in Alaska: the facts, figures, and results.

Background and History of Wolf Management/Population in GMU 13

Predator control efforts and liberal harvest regulations (no closed season, no bag limit) instituted by the federal Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (now the USFWS) between 1948 and 1953 decimated the wolf population in GMU 13. Based on estimates in Rausch (1967), as few as 12 wolves may have remained in the unit in 1954. Denning and aerial shooting were legal, and bounties were paid. Beginning with statehood in 1959 the wolf season was closed in Unit 13 for 5 years and wolf population numbers increased dramatically (Schwanke 2009). In 1971, a mandatory sealing requirement for wolf pelts and a ban on aerial shooting without a permit were instituted (Harbo and Dean 1983). Increased wolf hunting pressure in the mid-1970s resulted in lowering the wolf population to what officials considered “stable wolf numbers.” Land-and-shoot hunting was a common and legal method for taking wolves under general trapping regulations, until it was prohibited in 1988. The wolf population subsequently increased to “record high numbers” in 1999 and 2000 (Schwanke 2009). Interesting claim when information on wolf abundance is long on extrapolations, calculations,
second-hand observations, and anecdotal information and short on actual survey data, even moreso than the moose estimates. Methods are often “based on wolf and track sightings gathered from staff biologists, hunters, trappers, and pilots, adjusted for documented harvest.” Fall wolf observations are of an incidental nature. They involve staff biologists who happen to see wolves while conducting moose trend counts primarily in portions of subunits 13A and 13B that add up to less than 20 percent of GMU 13 (Haber. 2006. pages 9-11). To this day wolf population numbers are calculated by “observations of wolves by ADF&G staff, hunters, trappers, and pilots, minus the documented harvest.”

The implementation of a wolf control plan in 2000 (Subunits 13A, 13B, and 13E) and reinstitution of land-and-shoot hunting in 2004 reduced the wolf population and maintained it at the state’s “management objective level” since 2006 (Schwanke 2009). In 2005, Subunit 13C was added to the wolf control plan and in 2006 aerial shooting became legal for same-day-airborne permittees under the land-and-shoot provision. Current hunting regulations allow resident and nonresident hunters to kill 10 wolves per day in GMU 13 during August 10–April 30. Wolves are also killed under trapping regulations, which also were liberalized to increase “harvest.” Before 1994, the trapping season lasted for 141 days (November 10–March 31). The trapping season length was increased to 171 days between 1994 and 1998. Since 1998, trapping regulations have allowed for unlimited harvest of wolves during October 15–April 30 (197 days).

GMU13 intensive management control began in 2003 based largely on claims about moose numbers and trends across the entire unit, only 7 percent of which (1 area) had been censused, in 1994, 1998-2001, 2003, and then again in 2005, as shown below. Today, just 3,219 square miles within GMU 13 are surveyed annually.

GMU 13 is approximately 23,367 square miles, with an IM area of 15,416 square miles.

From the 2013 annual report showing GMU 13 survey areas. The areas in pink are continuous count areas surveyed annually. The areas in light green are surveyed periodically.

Same Day Airborne Program (SDA)

In 1990–91 and 1991–92, when permitted pilots were allowed to take wolves by land-and-shoot means, 86 (61%) and 88 (77%) wolves were taken, respectively. Since March 2000, taking wolves SDA in Unit 13 has been legal through the Board of Game initiated wolf control implementation plan. For a short period during 2000, land-and-shoot was allowed (at that time the shooter had to be 300 feet from the aircraft) and 14 wolves were taken. Due to “political considerations,” land-and-shoot was not authorized by the department again until January of 2004. The distance requirement was dropped. The program has been limited to residents of Alaska; members of the public must apply for an SDA permit. During the 2003–04 regulatory year, 34 pilots and 32 gunners were permitted; 125 wolves were taken land-and-shoot. During that initial year, approximately 1,950 hours were flown by SDA pilots. In 2004–05, 26 pilots and 36 gunners were permitted, 950 hours were flown, and 67 wolves were taken. The number of permitted pilots has ranged from 26 in 2004–05 to 48 in 2007–08. The number of wolves taken SDA has ranged from 125 in 2003–04 to 33 in 2006–07 and again in 2007-08. In 2006–07, due to the “persistence” of some large productive packs in heavily forested areas, the Department then began allowing SDA permittees to take wolves from the air in addition to land-and-shoot. In RY 2010 the wolf population in the unit was reduced by 92% via hunting, trapping and 103 wolves killed SDA. In RY 2013, RY 2015, and RY 2016 the wolf numbers were also reduced by 89%.

The goal of the Department is “to reduce the number of wolves in the predation control area to meet the spring wolf objective, so estimated or confirmed number remaining in the wolf assessment area by spring (30 April) each regulatory year is 135–165.”

Moose abundance and calculation methods in GMU 13

From the 2018 Annual Report:
Seven continuous moose count areas (CA) 3, 5, 6, 10, 13, 14, and 16 across Unit 13 encompass a total of just 3,219 square miles. “Periodic” surveys are also flown in CA 7, 12, 17, 21, 22, and 23, encompassing an additional 2,146 square miles.

Location of moose trend count areas. This map was taken from the 2018 annual report.

Therefore these periodic surveys flown help to clarify a guesstimate of population in 23,367 square miles of which just 3,219 are surveyed annually. The trend count data is then extrapolated to estimate the unit-wide population abundance of moose, which then, in turn, with the addition of deficient wolf survey data, is used to determine the fate of hundreds of wolves.

History of moose population trends in GMU 13

Historically, GMU 13 has been an important area for moose hunting in Alaska. Moose densities in Game Management Unit (GMU) 13 were low during the early 1900s, but started to increase by the 1940s. Moose were abundant throughout the 1950s, and the population peaked in the mid 1960s. Annual harvests were large, averaging more than 1200 bulls and 200 cows during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hunting seasons were long, with both fall and winter hunts.

For the next 10 years moose numbers declined, reaching a population
low by 1975. Factors contributing to the decline were severe winters, large human harvests of both bulls and cows, and, of course, there was predation, with the wolves paying the ultimate price for human greed and error, and for severe winters. As moose numbers began to decline, harvests were reduced by eliminating both the cow hunt and winter season in 1972 and reducing fall bull seasons to 20 days in 1975. In 1980 the bag limit was changed from any bull to bulls with an antler spread of at least 36 inches or 3 brow tines on at least 1 antler. Under this management regime, the bull harvest dropped 34% from the previous season. Since 1990, the harvest regulations have been through several long overdue changes in response to severe winters, and low bull:cow ratios. By the year 2001 a low of 468 moose was reported taken in 2001, and though several severe winters took an enormous toll on the moose, the intensive management program was approved.

The Board claims that the moose population (1) in GMU 13 has averaged about four percent annual increases, and ADF&G attributes that increase to the implementation of the IM program. Prior to intensive wolf management the moose population peaked in 1987 to a high of 6,892 moose, observed in established trend count areas. One year later the human harvest also increased to 1,259 moose. Thereafter the population soon began to decline due to severe winters with deep snow (1988–1994). Snow depths during the winters of 1999–2000 and 2000–2001 were also considered severe, and the moose population continued to fall. At the same time, during RY 1999, the Department claimed that the wolf population peaked, increasing to an estimated 500 wolves, and, as I mentioned earlier, they were viewed as one of the primary reasons for moose decline, leading to the approval of IM in this unit. Of course deep snowfall can also lead to increased wolf predation, but not enough to cause such drastic declines. For the sake of comparison, in GMU 15 wolves had been wiped out by 1915, mainly through poisoning. They did not return until 1965, it was believed that they had emigrated from the mainland, and the wolf population was very small at that time. The moose on the other hand were abundant, experiencing several population peaks, 1971 being the highest. By 1971 the population had increased to 7,900 between GMU 15A and 15B, beyond carrying capacity, and extensive overbrowsing occurred by the late 1960s. Then harsh winters from 1971 to 1974 reduced the moose population over the entire Kenai Peninsula and by 1975 just 3,375 remained (Unit 15A represented 75% of these estimates, and saw a decline from 5,900 to 2,500 moose). Keep in mind that the wolf population at this time was minimal; too small to be blamed along with the severe winter for such a sharp decline.

Back to GMU 13—Moose numbers have increased in GMU 13 since 2001. Comparison of the number of moose
counted between 2001 and 2007 indicates there has been an increase in all sex and age categories of moose. Overall, moose count numbers are up approximately 30%, but there have been several years that saw declines, notably in 2003 (see chart below) the year after one of the largest removal of wolves, when 246 animals were killed. During years 2014 through 2016 when the wolf population was well below the state’s “management objective level,” one would have expected the moose population to soar if indeed the IM was “working,” but it did not as the observed moose population in 2016 was just 374 more animals than the observed population when the IM was approved in 2000.

The increase in moose numbers since 2001 is attributed primarily to increased survival, with, of course, ADF&G crediting the increase to reduced predation. In their report it was noted that “active wolf management that brought the wolf population down from record highs was the single most important factor.” It was also mentioned that “contributing to the increased survival was the occurrence of relatively mild winters since 2000.” That wolf control was responsible for any notable moose population increase cannot be determined as mild winters help increase productivity (cows in better physical condition have higher calving rates), and because there was a simultaneous reduction in allowable human harvest of moose during years that saw population declines.

It is also important to note that neonatal calf mortality due to brown bear predation is significant. Liberal sport hunting regulations since 1994 have resulted in an increase in brown bear harvests, but no effect on neonatal calf mortality has been detected, and is still a major factor in GMU 13.

ADF&G’s objective is to increase the yearly moose harvest to 1,200–2,000 animals, provide for a subsistence harvest of 600 moose per year, and to increase the moose population to 20,000 to 25,000 moose. ADF&G notes that the resident take of moose may be substantially higher than accounted for based on information collected by the Division of Subsistence, and considerable unreported or illegal harvest is likely occuring in some areas.

Again, increasing the moose population to, or above carrying capacity can do more damage, not only to the ecosystems, but to the moose’s ability to thrive, and to survive severe winters. As an example let’s look at the moose on Isle Royale, though tick infestations are not common in Alaska (for the time being) where on Isle Royale outbreaks can be severe and devastating for moose. On Isle Royale “with predation low during the late 1980s and early 1990s, moose lived longer and gave birth to more calves. The moose population nearly tripled to almost 2,400 by 1996. During the winter of 1996, lack of forage for the moose, an outbreak of moose ticks, and severe winter all conspired against the moose. The winter had been more severe than any in over a century. The moose population collapsed from its all-time high to just 500 moose.” All in just one winter—in less than one year— the moose population crashed from nearly 2,400 animals to just 500.

Another example is on the Kenai Peninsula; in the early 1900’s on the Kenai Peninsula, large swaths of mature forest burned in wildfires caused by miners and early settlers. As caribou-friendly habitats were supplanted by moose-friendly shrubs and young hardwoods, caribou numbers decreased while moose numbers increased. With most of their former habitat altered, the remaining caribou were wiped out by unregulated hunting. The last recorded sighting of an indigenous caribou on the Kenai Peninsula was in 1912. Meanwhile, the generation of new habitat beneficial to moose and a series of relatively mild winters allowed the ungulates to flourish. By 1910, the Kenai Peninsula had become famous for its uniquely large, numerous moose. Eventually moose numbers outpaced available food sources, which led to overbrowsing. Moose numbers
then decreased by 50 percent by the mid-1920s after a series of severe winters. Then again in 1970, the Kenai National Moose Range estimated its moose population to be as high as 9,000. Only five years later, after harsh winters and overbrowsing of areas outside of a 1969 burn, moose numbers on the range fell to roughly 3,500.

The examples are endless. Clearly, striving toward a more natural balance, and setting human greed aside is not only the right thing to do, but also the safest for all involved, including the ecosystems.

Wolf removal

Wolf killing seasons and limits have been greatly liberalized in Intensive Management areas. At least 1,500 wolves are killed each year in the formally designated control programs and via other public hunting (often liberalized), which allows the use of snowmobiles, and trapping throughout the state, with little practical distinction between the former and latter except in the use of airplanes.

The 2018-2019 regulations for GMU 13 wolf hunting allow for a “bag limit” of 10 wolves per day for residents and nonresidents alike and no tag is required by nonresidents. The season runs from August 10th through April 30th. That means that for 263 days of the year, anyone from anywhere can kill up to 10 wolves per day, even when pups are young and dependent on family members for survival.

Between RY 2003 (when intensive management of wolves was first implemented) and RY 2016 a total of 1,536 wolves were killed in GMU 13 through liberalized hunting and trapping regulations and by SDA. A total of 600 wolves were slaughtered via aerial gunning or land and shoot (Regulatory Year (RY) is the period beginning July 1st through June 30th of the following year).

As you can see from the chart below the observed moose abundance was estimated at 4,230 during the first year of wolf control, and after 14 years of intensive management the moose abundance remained nearly the same, with an observed population estimate of 4,183 (or an estimated abundance of 18,587 in 2003, down to 18,381 in 2017). And though the harvest of moose steadily increased certainly not to a point that can be attributed to wolf control, and never to the point that can justify cruel extreme predator control tactics, which the majority of Alaskans disagree with.

People naturally prefer stable resources, and many consider this a reasonable goal for wildlife management. However, in northern ecosystems, such as those in Alaska, major population fluctuations are typical; stable populations are not. Natural fluctuations are the background against which management must work. Populations of prey are generally either increasing or decreasing when predator management begins. It is extremely difficult to tell how close a prey population is to the carrying capacity of its environment at a particular time. By perturbing the natural system, management could increase prey populations above the carrying capacity of the environment, and cause a deeper crash than would otherwise have taken place. That is apparently what happened in the 1970s after the massive predator control efforts of the 1950s.
Habitat quality is an important determinant of the dynamics of populations. —National Research Council

During RY 2013 and RY 2014 the spring wolf estimate was below the minimum intensive management objective as the estimate was just 84 wolves during RY 2014; spring of 2015. This calculation was derived from a minimum count conducted in 13D and 13E. There was also an undetermined spring wolf estimate in RY 2016. The SDA control was suspended in RY 2012 and in RY 2015–2017 because spring wolf population estimates were below the intensive management objective, though liberalized hunting regulations remained unchanged.

The spring of 2018 survey estimated a wolf population within GMU 13 of 250. The fall/winter estimate was 400. And, as mentioned earlier, the predator control plan was reauthorized for 10 years in February 2016 and will continue until 2027. The goal this regulatory year is the removal of 235 wolves.

The objective of ongoing IM for wolves is to achieve and maintain a post-hunting and trapping season population of 135–165 wolves, which is just 3.3–4.1 wolves per 386 square miles in the available habitat unitwide.

Alaska’s legal obligations.

Alaska’s constitution incorporates principles of natural resource management that serve as the foundation for the management of Alaska’s wildlife. Alaska was the first state to have a constitutional article devoted to natural resources, and it is the only state to have a constitutional provision addressing the principle of sustained yield. Alaska’s sustained yield clause article VIII, section 4 provides that:
Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.

The Constitution compels the consideration of sustained yield for all wildlife, and all resources, to ensure that these resources are protected and capable of providing a yield. A minimal, or even “viable” population, is not the same thing as a population that is managed for sustained yield; reducing the population of wolves well below “management levels” as occurred for several years in GMU 13 with a spring abundance of just 84 wolves in 2014—one half of the population objective—must go against Alaska’s constitution, as well as ADF&G’s mission. Rather than maximizing population yields, the Board of Game should aim towards maximizing system capacities and maintaining a resilient ecosystem able to absorb adversity.

In West vs State in 2010, the superior court agreed that Alaska’s constitutional sustained yield clause applies to predators, but unfortunately, and we believe mistakenly, the court did not agree that the Board’s predator control plans violate this constitutional provision. Perhaps today, 9 years later, years filled with intensive mismanagement, the courts would rule against intensive wolf control.

There is also the Wildlife Trust Doctrine, a branch of the Public Trust Doctrine, that defines the obligation of the states responsibility and obligation to its citizens, and dictates that wildlife has no owners at all, and therefore belongs to all citizens equally. As a result, states have a “sovereign trust obligation” to ensure that wildlife resources are protected and managed responsibly, not just for the benefit of current citizens, but also over the long term. The Wildlife Trust Doctrine imposes a duty to ensure proper protection for the gray wolf, as well as any other species no longer (or never) protected by the federal government. Would the courts believe that the demise of large populations of wolves under the law of the Intensive Management Program is responsible management?

And what of the ethical costs.

“Extraordinary intelligence, expressiveness, and emotional depth enable wolves to maintain their sophisticated bonds as cooperative breeders and cooperative hunters. This same high sentience that is so integral to their biology also provides an ethical basis for challenging the current control programs. Many people recognize the importance if not preeminence of ethical considerations in determining how we should interact with other species, especially animals of such high sentience. Many scientists now also feel this way and recognize how integral intelligence, emotions, personalities, traditions, culture, and other previously ignored aspects of sentience are to the biology of non-human social animals. So prominent has this thinking become in the greater society that it must be treated as a major societal cost to be considered explicitly before deciding about wolf control or other such actions. Scientists in particular are obliged to recognize and be guided or constrained by the ethical implications of their work.”

What can be done.

Wildlife management policies in Alaska are set by the Board of Game (BOG) whose members are appointed by the Governor and require confirmation by the state legislature. Management of wildlife in Alaska has been carried out by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) Division of Wildlife Conservation. The BOG holds two formal meetings each year in each region, during which all the regulations for that region are considered, and since public input is invited, it is a perfect opportunity for you to make your objections to extreme predator control tactics, that are beyond the pale of decency, known.

Most management actions implemented by ADF&G are not controversial, but wolf control, intensive predator management, and shotgunning hundreds of wolves from airplanes the majority of Alaskans, both non-hunters and hunters alike, find offensive. These lands belong to all Alaskans, they are your public resources, and by law are subject to preferences among beneficial uses; you, the majority of Alaskans who find intensive management unacceptable must speak up if there is to be any change in this cruel and barbaric treatment of large carnivores. Change is long overdue. Alaska needs a Board of Game that represents all interests including wildlife enthusiasts, non-hunters and those whose subsistence comes from tourism—tourists come to see all wildlife in Alaska, not game farms—dollars earned by tourists anxious to see wolves can be lost. The wolf, after all, is Alaska’s goose laying golden eggs in the form of tourism dollars.

Change should also begin with the Board of Game. Alaska’s governors have failed to create a balance in appointments to the board; the odds, for years, have been stacked against wolves and bears.

Board of Game members:

Ted Spraker – Chair
Term expires 6/30/2020
Ted Spraker was appointed to the Board of Game by Governor Murkowski in 2003. Ted is a member of the Alaska Trappers Association, Safari Club International, 4-H Shooting Sports Instructor and a lifetime member of NRA.

Nate Turner – Vice-Chair
Term expires 6/30/2019
Nate Turner was appointed to the Board of Game by Governor Parnell in 2010.
Nate has lived a remote subsistence lifestyle that includes trapping, commercial and subsistence fishing, big game guiding. Nate is the owner of Turner’s Alaskan Adventures, a small family hunting business that he operates annually, employing neighboring trappers and other remote bush residents as assistant guides. Nate has been providing guided hunts as a Registered hunting guide for last 15 years and has continued to work as an assistant guide himself for the last 18 years. He is a member of the Alaska Trappers Association and the Alaska Professional Hunters Association and holds a private pilot license.

Stosh Hoffman
Term expires 6/30/2020
Stosh Hoffman was appointed to the Board of Game in 2008 by Governor Palin. Stosh is an experienced assistant guide and commercial fisherman.
Stosh enjoys hunting and fishing with his wife and two young sons.

Tom Lamal
Term expires 6/30/2020
Tom was appointed to the Board of Game by Governor Walker in 2017.
Tom is a life member of the NRA and the Wild Sheep Foundation and belongs to several other outdoor organizations – Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, The Fairbanks Retriever Club, Resident Hunters of Alaska, Ruff Grouse Society, Alaska Airmen’s Association, AOPA, Alaska Waterfowl Association, Clear Sky Sportsman’s, etc. He was president of the Fairbanks Retriever Club for six years, and on the board of the Alaska Outdoor Council and Resident Hunters of Alaska.

Jerry Burnett
Term expires 6/30/2021
Jerry grew up hunting (his mother taught him how to shoot at age 6) and fishing with his father and five brothers. He has long been involved with Fish and Game Management issues in Alaska having served on the boards of the Alaska Outdoor Council and Territorial Sportsmen. He and his wife own and operate Encounter Charters, a fishing and wildlife viewing business.

Karen Linnell
Term expires 6/30/2019
was appointed to the Board of Game by Governor Walker in 2016. Karen is a long-time resident of the Copper River basin. A lifelong subsistence hunter and fisher.

Larry Van Daele
Term expires 6/30/2021
Larry was appointed to the Board of Game by Governor Walker in 2017.
Larry’s 34-year career with ADF&G, he was the area wildlife biologist in Dillingham and Kodiak, spent time as a regional wildlife biologist and regional supervisor in Anchorage, and he was able to earn a PhD focused on the management of Kodiak brown bears. Larry is the co-chair of the IUCN North Asian Brown Bear Expert Team.

Burnett took his seat on February 21, 2019.

Newly appointed members Barrette and Huntington will take their seats on the Board of Game on July 1, 2019:

Al Barrette of Fairbanks is a big game guide, taxidermist, and small business owner. He has owned and operated the Fairbanks Fur Tannery for almost 30 years. Barrette first became involved in the BOG process in 1995, was elected to the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee in 2005, and currently serves as chairman of the Game and Trap subcommittee. In 2007 he became a class A big game guide.

Orville Huntington of Huslia has served as a member of the Board of Fish from 2012-2019. As a public servant for the village of Huslia and the 43 villages of the Tanana Chiefs Conference region, Mr. Huntington’s primary responsibilities continue to be the preservation of Native subsistence hunting, fishing, gathering, and trapping opportunities and the cultural events that surround those beliefs.


Funding wasteful cruelty needs to come to a full stop, humane ways of managing all wildlife must be examined. The Intensive Management Law should be repealed and the programs eliminated; legislation should be introduced that would do just that. Please contact your elected officials within the Alaska State Legislature. Find your representatives here. Find your senators here. Contact Governor Dunleavy here and contact the Board of Game here. Your voice matters, and you, who care to see an abolishment of the IM program, are in the majority. From 737,438 Alaskan residents, 615,041 do not hunt or trap, leaving just 122,387 resident hunters and trappers (16.59%), many of which also disagree with this sort of abhorrent cruelty.

If you are an Alaskan tourist why not express your outrage over the IM program, send an email, let Governor Dunleavy know how you feel about a program that slaughters hundreds of large carnivores utilizing extreme and cruel tactics, includes shotgunning wolves from airplanes. Be sure to follow up with a phone call.

Economic impact of tourism. Download the full report here.

Economic impact of hunting/Alaska 2018. Download the full economic report for Alaska here.

As Gordon C. Haber said in The Case Against Wolf and Bear Control In Alaska, written in 2006 — “it is time for an honest accounting of the costs of control, particularly the biological, scientific, and ethical costs that are of such importance to the greater society.”


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(1) Moose population estimates:
Direct counting can be used to estimate moose numbers if the area of interest is small enough to search systematically in its entirety and appropriate sightability corrections are applied for current conditions. Otherwise, it is necessary to use a sampling procedure. Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) biologists recognize that stratified random sampling is the only way to do this accurately and with known precision. However, typically they census (sample) only portions of the areas to which estimates are applied – i.e., the estimated means are extrapolated to thousands of additional square kilometers even though they have no statistical validity or practical meaning outside the censused areas, because it is impossible to assign confidence limits. This is a serious deficiency given that each control area supports multiple, independently changing moose populations and subpopulations – as is indicated, for example, by multiple, distinct migratory patterns and wintering areas. While expanded estimates might accurately portray the status of some populations or subpopulations, for others they are just as likely to mislead biologists and policymakers into thinking there are low numbers or decreases where there are actually high numbers or increases, and vice versa. In none of the control areas have the moose-censusing areas been delineated in ways that ensure inclusion of all or even most of the annual ranges of the moose being estimated. Source

Citations, References, and related content:

Schwanke, R. A. 2009. Unit 13 wolf management report. Pages 93–103 in P. Harper, editor. Wolf management report of survey and inventory activities 1 July 2005–30 June 2008. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Project 14.0. Juneau, Alaska.

W.J. Testa, “Population dynamics of moose and predators in Game Management Unit 13” (f01moo_pred13.pdf)

Michel Crête
Approximation of K carrying capacity
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Vol. 67, Issue 2, Pages 373-380

Carroll, G. 2009. Unit 26A wolf management report. Pages 265–278 in P. Harper, editor. Wolf management report of survey and inventory activities 1 July 2005–30 June 2008. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Juneau, Alaska.

Biological, Conservation, and Ethical Implications of Exploiting and Controlling Wolves

GERALD A. MCBEATH, THE ALASKA STATE CONSTITUTION: A REFERENCE GUIDE 146 (1997); Bret Adams et al., Environmental and Natural Resources Provisions in State Constitutions, 22 J. LAND RESOURCES & ENVTL. L. 73, 255-263 (2002) (listing state constitutional provisions relating to the environment and natural resources).

RAUSCH, R. A. 1967. Some aspects of the population ecology of wolves in Alaska. American
Zoologist 7:253–265

Ripple WJ, Rooney TP, Beschta RL. Large predators, deer, and trophic cascades in boreal and temperate ecosystems. Pages 141–162 in Terborgh J, and Estes JA (eds), Trophic Cascades: Predators, prey, and the changing dynamics of nature. Island Press, Washington DC. 2010. 465 pp.

AEA (Alaska Energy Authority).2012a.2012 Study Plan, W- S2: Past and Current Big Game and Furbearer Harvest Study.

Harbo, S. J., Jr., and F. C. Dean. 1983. Historical and current perspectives on wolf management in Alaska. Pages 52–64 in L.N. Carbyn, editor. Wolves in Canada and Alaska: their status, biology, and management. Proceedings of the Wolf Symposium, Edmonton, Alberta. Canadian Wildlife Service Report. Series 45.

West vs State, Board of Game

Annual Report to the Alaska Board of Game on Intensive Management for Moose with Wolf Predation Control in Unit 15A.

Miller SD, Schoen JW, Schwartz CC. Trends in brown bear reduction efforts in Alaska, 1980–2017. Ursus. 2017. 28:135–149

Kenai Peninsula wolves prove resilient in face of harsh history.

Annual Reports to Alaska Board of Game on Intensive Management.

Moose Management Report

Ticks the focus of new research in Alaska

Alaska Board of Game Finding of Emergency

The Case Against Wolf and Bear Control In Alaska Gordon C. Haber
March 2006

Alaska’s intensive game management isn’t working

An incredible example of gross mismanagement: ADF&G Hides Evidence That Does Not Support Wolf Control

Trends in brown bear reduction efforts in Alaska.

Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores.

National Research Council. Wolves, bears, and their prey in Alaska: Biological and social challenges in wildlife management.

Predator control, politics, and wildlife management in Alaska.

Large carnivores under assault in Alaska.

Trophic downgrading of planet Earth.

Alaska’s Predator Control Program: Managing for Abundance or Abundant Mismanagement (2011)

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2 thoughts on “Alaska’s Intensive Destruction

  1. Good post. As long as the Board of Game is composed of people with vested interests in intensive wolf management and moose trophy hunting, I doubt much will change. It will probably be worth the effort to get the board more representative of the state citizenry, including non-consumptive users. Emphasize the wildlife trust and sustainable ecosystems, not sustained yield. And it seems to be a conflict of interest to have professional guides influencing wildlife management decisions.

    Liked by 2 people

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