Stop Killing Alaska's Apex Predators on Wildlife Reserves

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Congress is allowing extreme methods to kill grizzlies, black bears, and wolves in Alaska - for terrible reasons.

Alaska's wildlife refuges, established "to conserve fish and wildlife populations in their natural diversity," are home to all of these creatures. But in recent years, state officials have ignored both science and direction from the National Park Service, targeting predators with the vain hope of increasing prey species for subsistence hunters.

Historically, when state officials wanted to extend "predator control" to federal wildlife refuges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service typically declined. In August of 2016, the USFWS finalized a rule to clarify federal protection of predators on Alaska's wildlife refuges1, banning these hunting methods for good. But the measure was seen as overreach by the White House, which soon got involved in the dispute and overruled the USFWS' refusal2.

The state of Alaska's approach to increasing moose and caribou numbers now involves killing mother bears slowed by tiny cubs, gassing wolf pups and families as they sleep in their dens, bear baiting, snares, and traps. And perhaps most controversial of all, hunting bears and wolves via relentless pursuit by small aircraft — gunning them down from the skies3.

Since 2003, Alaska has issued aerial wolf-hunting permits in select areas where moose and caribou populations are particularly endangered. The idea is that by killing the predators, the airborne gunmen can ramp up the number of moose and caribou that human hunters can take home for supper4.

Many aerial wolf-gunning teams fly their single-engine Super Cub planes at very low speeds and at dangerous altitudes of less than 100 feet. They sometimes swoop down to 10 to 15 feet above the ground, and there have been a number of reported deaths in recent years as a result5.

The state of Alaska is now sanctioning and even using extreme means to kill predators on nationally protected wildlife refuges when studies show caribou and moose populations are mostly limited by availability of food each year6.

Predators play a vital role in the ecosystem, keeping prey species healthy, concentrating and moving nutrients, and actually changing the landscape by their very presence. In the last and arguably the greatest wilderness left in the United States, apex predators deserve our protection, and our respect.

Dangerous trophy hunting disguised as predator control is not condoned by scientists or studies. It is rejected by most of the people of Alaska, and even by many hunters.

Sign the petition below and ask the leaders of the United States to restore protections for predators in Alaska's wildlife refuges.

More on this issue:

  1. Environmental & Energy Law Program (20 January 2021), "Hunting in National Preserves and Wildlife Refuges in Alaska."
  2. 115th Congress (3 April 2017), "H.J.Res.69 - Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Department of the Interior relating to "Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska".."
  3. Dan Joling, the Associated Press (4 April 2017), "Trump revokes rule on bear and wolf hunting in Alaska refuges."
  4. Alaska Department of Fish and Game (24 February 2021), "Hunting, Trapping & Shooting
  5. Samantha Henig, Slate (2 September 2008), "Aerial Wolf Gunning 101."
  6. Virginie Christopherson, Jean-Pierre Tremblay, Patrick N.Gagné, Jean Bérubé, Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, Global Ecology and Conservation (October 2019), "Meeting caribou in the alpine: Do moose compete with caribou for food?"
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The Petition:

To the President of the United States and leaders of Congress,

I wish to express my urgent concern regarding Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.

Alaskan wildlife refuges, like all of the federally protected refuges in this great nation, are maintained with the conservation of species and the ecosystem as the primary goal. Those species very much include apex predators, and with excellent reason.

Apex predators, including grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, are vital for a healthy and thriving ecosystem. Study after study has shown that their presence improves the health of ungulates like caribou, moose, and wild sheep by culling the old, sick, or weak. They affect the very landscape, changing how prey species move and forage. They concentrate and distribute vital nutrients throughout the ecosystem, helping the very plants the feed prey species. And their predation has less effect on the ungulate population than the far more important availability of plant food.

To sanction and promote extreme hunting methods in these refuges goes against everything they were established for. The State of Alaska should not sanction shooting mother bears with cubs, gassing wolf families in their dens, using methods that cause prolonged pain like snares and traps, or taking unsportsmanlike advantage of bait stations and airplanes. These methods will not protect wild ungulates that Alaskans rely on, nor are they at all likely to increase the populations or health of these species.

Most Alaskans, in addition to biologists and even many hunters, agree that they should not be allowed.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us." You must restore these predator protections. Let the grizzlies, the black bears, and the wolves survive in our wildlife refuges, for the generations that come after us to wonder at.


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