Friends of Animals Organizes "Howl-Ins" to Protest Aerial Shooting of Wolves in Alaska

In December, Friends of Animals organized 32 protests across the United States to object to a decision by Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski to allow the aerial shooting of wolves by wildlife control officials in that state.

In order to reduce the population of wolves, which Alaskan officials claim are preying on moose in the McGrath area, Alaska plans to kill about 40 wolves from aircraft over the next 2-3 years.

In response, Friends of Animals is trying to organize a nationwide tourism boycott of Alaska. From Dec. 27-28 it held 32 “Howl-Ins” in various cities to get its message across.

According to the Associated Press, for example, in New York Friends of Animals workers carried placards reading,

Alaska is planning a heart-stopping wildlife spectacle,” the placard read. “They call it ‘management.’ We call it murder.

The group also handed out postcards to send to Alaskan government officials asking them to stop the planned hunt as well as pamphlets urging a tourist boycott of Alaska.

Alaskan officials say they have received about 15,000 e-mails and 1,000 letters protesting the hunt, but that the scale of the protests so far don’t match a similar protest against a wolf hunt in 1992 when state officials received more than 100,000 letters and phone calls opposing a wolf hunt. That protest forced then-Gov. Walter J. Hickel to call a wolf summit that eventually rescinded plans for the hunt.

Murkowski told the Associated Press that the wolf hunt is the right thing to do and that he won’t be swayed by the protests,

We think we addressed this in a responsible manner. We have a state to manage and game populations to manage, and we’re not going to do it on emotion.

The 1992 campaign, by the way, featured some familiar tactics according to the Associated Press,

State officials recall receiving death threats in 1992, and employees were trained to detect mail that could contain explosives. At one point Alaska State Troopers had to provide security at the state Department of Fish and Game.


Wolf-kill foes stage protests across country. The Associated Press, December 29, 2003.

Friends of Animals Launches “Howl-Ins” for the Wolves of Alaska. Press Release, Friends of Animals, December 19, 2003.

Alaska Lt. Governor Approves Initial Step in Initiative to Ban Bear Baiting

Alaska’s Lt. Governor Loren Leman approved the language of an initiative petition that, if successful, would ban bear baiting in that state.

Opponents of bear baiting argue that it is both unethical and potentially dangerous. Alaskan wilderness guide John Erickson told the Associated Press that the practice teaches bears to seek out human-supplied sources of food,

We are teaching them to eat garbage out in the woods. Once you get a bear in the dump, they are a garbage bear.

Black bears are the only species that Alaska allows hunters to bait, and close to 20 percent of the 2,500 bears killed annually in Alaska are black bears that are killed after having been baited. There are an estimated 100,000 black bears in Alaska.

The Humane Society of the United States argues that bear baiting is “unfair.” Wayne Pacelle told the Associated Press,

It’s not surprising wherever baiting occurs, it’s enormously controversial. It cannot
withstand public scrutiny, because it’s so unfair to the bear and because it causes obvious conflicts between bears and humans.

Supporters counter that it is no more unfair than using bird calls and decoys to attract birds or using baited hooks to catch fish. Or, as Alaska Daily News outdoor editor Craig Medred put it,

Yes, I know, some will say, “Well, gee, that doesn’t sound fair.”

It isn’t. Hunting isn’t fair. And it doesn’t matter whether the hunting is done by humans, wolves or, for that matter, bears. Predators are the animals with weapons, fangs and claws. The prey are the animals with the tasty flesh.

In the long-running and ongoing dance between predator and prey, individual predators are destined to win, and individual prey are destined to lose. The only thing that keeps the system going is the ability of the prey to — for lack of a better analogy — breed like rabbits.

This is the way nature works. There is nothing fair about it.

Supporters of the ban now must collect 23,286 in at least 27 election districts in order to place the initiative on the 2004 ballot.


Baiting is traditional form of bear hunting. Craig Medred, Alaska Daily News, July 6, 2003.

Critics of bear baiting aim at voters. Mike Chambers, Associated Press, July 7, 2003.

Leman approves bear baiting initiative petition. Kenai Peninsula Online, June 20, 2003.

Alaskan Governor Signs Wolf Cull Bill

Apparently willing to risk the promised boycott from Friends of Animals, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a bill in June that will allow private citizens to hunt wolves from airplanes.

The law also alters the rules that determine when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can order a culling of the wolf population. Under the old rules, it could only do so if it found that there was a decline in the population of animals that wolves prey on. Under the new rules, the department can order a cull of wolves when their numbers grow regardless of the impact such growth is having on prey species.

The Department of Fish and Game will likely use the aerial hunts to thin the population of wolves near McGrath, where residents would like to see the moose population expand to provide more hunting and economic opportunities. The department already has a project underway to capture and remove bears from around McGrath.

Friends of Animals, meanwhile, apparently believes there are constitutional issues with the law and are holding off on calling for a boycott hoping that those issues will render the law moot,

FOA believes that there are legal problems with the new statute. Among other things, it appears that this statute violates the Alaska Constitution’s separation of powers rule by invading the legal authority of the Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. We brought this problem to the attention of the Alaska Attorney General, and we expect that it be addressed before anyone tries to take any action under the statute. Aside from that constitutional infirmity, there are also some serious legal, administrative and fiscal impediments to implementation of the statute. FOA anticipates litigation if the Game Board tries to use this new statute to initiate wolf-killing. If wolf control is implemented, Friends of Animals will call for a tourism boycott of Alaska during the months of November 2003 through January 2004 — when tourists book summer visits to Alaska with tourist agencies. — Priscilla Feral


Murkowski signs aerial wolf control bill. Associated Press, June 19, 2003.

When Alaskan Congressmen Attack

Rep. Dan Young (R-Alaska) lost his temper during a debate with Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) over a bill that Moran introduced that would have banned the baiting of bears on federal lands.

Young said to Moran,

I wish I had my native people in here right no. You’d walk out of here with no head on.

Young has a history with Moran — back in 1998 during debate over a bill that woudl have restricted the kinds of trapst that could be used on federal lands, Young made an obscene hand gesture at Moran.

An animal rights activist who posted an account of thi latest exchange to an animal rights mailing list noted,

If an animal rights activist said what Young said, she’d be charged with making a “terrorist threat.”

Of course your average animal rights activist wouldn’t be speaking on the floor of the House as a member of that body where she would have a great deal of legal protection thanks to the Speech & Debate Clause. But the observation is spot on — this sort of behavior would not be tolerated if it came from Ingrid Newkirk, and it shouldn’t be tolerated from Young either.

Moran later withdrew his bill when it became apparent it would not make it out of committee.


Lawmakers tussle over bear baiting. TheDenverChannel.Com, June 13, 2003.

Toward a more polite Don Young. The Juneau Empire, July 22, 1999.

Congressman Pulls Bill Restricting Bear Hunting. Robert B. Bluey, CNSNews, July 11, 2003.

Alaskan congressman envisions Moran ‘with no head on’. Associated Press, June 13, 2003.

Alaska Supreme Court Turns Back Friend of Animals Appeal

In what will likely be the last legal maneuver in a case that started in 1997, The Fairbanks News-Daily Miner reports that the Alaska Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Friends of Animals over a $200,000 judgment won by wolf trapper Eugene Johnson against the animal rights group.

In 1997, Johnson sued Friends of Animals and wildlife biologist Gordon Haber over the release of a wolf from a trap owed by Johnson. Haber released the wolf — which was found dead about three weeks later with wire from the trap still in its feet — while he was in Alaska doing research funded by Friends of Animals. Haber later distributed a videotape of the wolf’s release, and Johnson sued both Haber and Friends of Animals.

A jury found in Johnson’s favor and awarded him damages of $100,000 from Friends of Animals and $79,000 from Haber.

Friends of Animals appealed the verdict arguing that Haber was not acting as an agent of Friends of Animals when he released the wolf. An Alaska Superior Court judge rejected its first appeal in 2002, and the Alaska Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal is pretty much then end of the animal rights groups options. It could appeal to the United States Supreme Court, but as the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner noted, given that there are no federal issues involved such an appeal would certainly be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Johnson died in June 2002, but his estate will likely move to collect on the judgment. Due to another ruling in the case, Johnson’s estate will likely only be able to collect the judgment from the Friends of Animals which Johnson’s attorney said would amount to $120,000 once attorney fees and interest are included.


Court will not consider appeal by animal rights group. Dan Rice, Fairbanks Daily-News Miner, April 30, 2003.

Alaska Board of Game Approves Wolf Kill

In March, the Alaska Board of Game voted unanimously to approve a plan to kill wolves and move black bears in 520-square mile area in interior Alaska, in order to boost the moose population in the area. The proposal requires the additional approval of the state Fish and Game Department and Alaska’s governor, Frank Murkowski.

The plan also calls for a temporary moratorium on moose hunting in the McGrath area.

Friends of Animals’ Priscilla Feral has threatened a consumer boycott of Alaska if it approves the wolf kill. She was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that she was “horrified but not surprised” by the board’s decision.

In testimony before the Alaska Board of Game on March 6, Feral told the board,

If the Board of Game convinces Gov. Murkowski to approve this proposal, and appease the predator control minority, as opposed to most Alaskans and wildlife-watching tourists who denounce shot-gunning wolves from helicopters, FoA will initiate demonstrations and protests all over the country ? and internationally –matching every dollar you devote to killing wolves in launching an offensive.

Murkowski is himself a hunter who has said before that he is unafraid of a consumer boycott of his state and will almost certainly approve the plan.


Game Board backs predator control near McGrath. Associated Press, March 12, 2003.