Tourism to Alaska Increases while Friends of Animals Spins

In 1993, Friends of Animals initiated a tourist boycott of Alaska after the state resumed aerial killing wolves. Then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved to Priscilla Feral’s demands and put a swift end to the wolf hunts. So when Friends of Animals announced yet another boycott in December 2003 after Alaska again decided to allow aerial killing of wolves, the activists must have thought they would be able to bring substantial pressure against Gov. Frank Murkowski. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

In fact, according to the Associated Press, despite the Friends of Animal boycott, the number of people who visited Alaska over the summer actually increased over 2004. Alaska’s 15 national parks set a new record for number of visitors.

This leaves Feral with nothing to do but spin, telling the Associated Press,

Maybe more people would have visited if not for the public outrage over the issue. For me, it’s not a quick fix. I wish it was. We’re just going to keep shedding light on a gruesome issue whatever way we can. It does feel like an uphill battle with the current governor, but even he will eventually be replaced.

Murkowski’s term runs through November 2006, and he can run for re-election. Regardless, if they can’t impact visitors to Alaska, the issue isn’t going to have traction with any Alaskan governor as the program is popular within the state. No one’s going to lose their jobs over increased tourism, regardless of whether or not Feral thinks it might have been higher (one could as easily make the claim that more visitors chose Alaska because the governor resisted the animal rights group’s demands).

Friends of Animals is also not having much luck in court. It has sued to stop the hunting and a trial on the matter is scheduled on May 16. It also sought an injunction to end the killing until that trial takes place. In February, Alaska Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason refused to issue such an injunction, and took a nice legalese swipe at the group,

The plaintiffs [Friends of Animals] have made it quite clear that to them, the practice of killing wolves from airplanes to enhance moose populations for human consumption is a practice they find morally and ethically repugnant. But in balancing the hardships between the parties for purposes of preliminary injunctive relief, the fact that the state’s aerial wolf control programs are in direct contravention to the plaintiffs’ beliefs is not, under the law, a factor that is considered an ‘irreparable injury’ in determining whether preliminary injunctive relief is necessary.

Friends of Animals is currently trying to gather 28,000 pledges to boycott Alaska by the end of February. Since December 2004, it has collected a total of 5,000 signatures at live events, and is now turning to Internet petitions to reach the 28,000 level.


Group launches new ways to oppose wolf control program. Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, February 1, 2005.

Judge won’t suspend Alaska wolf control. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, January 27, 2005.

Judge rejects group’s bid to halt wolf control program. Associated Press, February 2, 2005.

Uncooperative Weather Keeps Wolves Killed in Alaska to 51

A combination of weather factors limited the number of wolves killed as part of Alaska’s aerial control program this winter. As of January 9, only 51 wolves had been killing according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

During last year’s aerial wolf hunt, hunters in Alaska killed 144 wolves.

Bruce Bartely, information officer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told the Fairbanks Daily News Miner,

It’s probably down from what we’d like to see but given the circumstances it’s probably the best we could hope for.

The state plans to mail out additional permits at the end of January for pilots and hunters in an effort to reduce by about 500 the number of wolves in five regions.


Aerial hunters foiled in pursuit of wolves. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily Miner, January 8, 2005.

Alaska to Expand Wolf Cull

Despite protests from the Friends of Animals over its wolf hunt last year that killed 144 wolves, Alaska plans to expand the aerial hunting of wolves this year.

Alaska’s initial aerial hunting program in 2003 resulted in 127 wolves killed in the Nelchina Basin and 17 in the McGrath area. The wolves were culled in order to allow moose populations in those areas to increase for hunting purposes. According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska, and about 1,500 are killed annually by hunters and trappers.

This year, in addition to the Nelchina Basin and McGrath areas, the state will offer permits for the aerial shooting of wolves west of Cook Inlet and near Aniak as well. The state would like hunters to kill about 150 wolves in both of the new areas.

Asked about the possibility of the Friends of Animals’ tourist boycott intensifying, a spokeswoman for Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski said, “He’s [Murkowski] concerned about what Alaskans think” not what animal rights activists elsewhere in the nation think.

Permits for the aerial hunt will be issued on October 15th and the hunt itself should get underway sometime in early December.


State widens wolf control program. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 29, 2004.

Friends of Animals' Alaska Boycott Appears to Be Going Nowhere

In late December, Friends of Animals launched a tourist boycott of Alaska after that state decided to begin aerial killing of a small number of wolves. According to an Associated Press report, however, so far the boycott hasn’t had much of an effect on tourism or Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski’s commitment to the wolf hunting program.

The aerial hunt, which ended April 30, was intended to kill about 180 wolves in areas where they were perceived as killing too many moose. As of April 26, only 140 wolves had actually been killed. According to the Associated Press, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska.

What effect the boycott has had depends on who is doing the talking. The Alaska Travel Industry Association told the Associated Press that while it has received about 100 calls and 200 e-mails from people saying they will not visit Alaska due to the boycott, it’s difficult to know how many of those people actually cancelled reservations.

The AP interviewed representatives at two businesses — a lodge and a small eco-tour company — who say that they have not noticed any change in reservations.

On the other hand, the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, which represents 275 smaller businesses, told the AP that the boycott could effect its members and responds to inquires with a letter reading that it,

. . . share[s] your concern for the wolves. . . . Unfortunately, our state leaders have ignored our wishes and gone ahead with their personal agenda.

As an example, the general manager of small travel company Alaska Discovery tells the AP that its reservations are the worst in its 33 years. So the boycott may end up largely hurting businesses which oppose the wolf hunting policy in the first place while doing little to actually change the policy. Still, another small travel company tells the AP that it’s business is up 20 percent from last year.

Indeed, Priscilla Feral seems to acknowledge that the boycott is unlikely to sway Murkowski, telling the Associated Press that the group may have to continue the protests and boycott through the end of Murkowski’s term of office,

I just find the current regime is really destructive beyond what anybody remembers in prior administrations. All of this, more than shaming Alaska, shames the country as a whole and that is why we aren’t going to go away.

Which means they could be doing their howl-ins for quite a while, since Murkowski’s term runs through the end of November 2006, assuming he isn’t re-elected.

Assuming the boycott has only minimal effect, the obvious question is why, considering how successful Friends of Animals’ 1993 boycott was. Obviously personalities are part of the reason, with Murkowski apparently willing to ignore any boycott whereas then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved into Feral’s demands. The other reason, I suspect, is the intervening 11 years of actions by animal rights activists — let’s call it the PETA factor.

In 1993, the animal rights movement was still relatively new and novel. Today, thanks to groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the movement is old hat and it’s objections to just about any animal-related activity much more widely known. I suspect that a large segment of people who in 1993 might have heard about the Alaska boycott and been sympathetic are today saying to themselves, “Oh, there go those animal rights activists again.”

PETA and other groups seem to operate on the principle that any publicity is good publicity, which might be true when promoting a movie or CD, but is not true when trying to bring about radical social changes.


Animal rights boycott of Alaska not working. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, April 26, 2004.

Wyoming Wolf Plan Likely to Be Decided by Courts

The gray wolf is currently on the endangered species list, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service required Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to submit plans for managing the gray wolf in their states. The USFWS approved Idaho’s and Montana’s, but won’t allow those states to implement their programs until Wyoming submits a suitable plan. Wyoming is sticking to its guns and apparently the courts will end up deciding the matter.

The USFWS rejected Wyoming’s plan even though 10 of 11 wildlife biologists appointed by the federal government approved of the plan. In rejecting Wyoming’s plan, the USFWS said that it objected to the way Wyoming classified gray wolves both as trophy animals and as predators, although the federal government apparently approved of this designation when it was originally passed by Wyoming’s legislature; that Wyoming’s plan to maintain 15 wolf packs was too low, despite the fact that the USFWS expressed its approval in early; and that the minimum size for each wolf pack was not set at six.

In late February, Wyoming’s state House passed HB 111 which reaffirms the dual classification of wolves and sets Wyoming on a legal collision course with the USFWS.


Wyoming wolf plan points to court. Tom Morton, Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), February 21, 2004.

State may sue feds over wolves. Bill Luckett, Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), February 3, 2004.

Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition Closes in on Bringing Anti-Wolf Lawsuit

According to the Spokane Spokesman Review, the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition is nearing its fund raising goal of $150,000 for a planned lawsuit against state and federal officials over the reintroduction of gray wolves to Idaho.

Wolves had been eradicated in Idaho in the early 20th century, but were reintroduced in the state in 1995. Since then the wolves have thrived, leading environmentalists to hail the success of the reintroduction program, while farmers, hunters and others argue it has been an unmitigated disaster for Idaho wildlife.

In 2001, the state passed a resolution expressing its desire to have the wolves removed from Idaho “by any means necessary.”

Much of the debate turns on disputes over the number of wolves and their hunting habits. Federal and state officials estimate there are less than 300 wolves in Idaho. The Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition maintains there are between 800 and 1,000 wolves. Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argues that each wolf eats the equivalent of one elk per month, while the Anti-Wolf Coalition claims they eat closer to two elk per month and kill the equivalent of four additional elk.

The Coalition seeks two things — they want “the immediate removal of the Canadian gray wolf from Idaho” and they want compensation from federal, state, and environmental groups for the taking of wildlife by the wolves.

The gray wolf in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming is currently on the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made it clear that it will delist the gray wolf as soon as all three state provide plans for managing the wolf populations that can meet its approval. In January the USFWS approved both Idaho’s and Montana’s plan to use a combination of trapping and hunting to manage the wolf population, but so far has rejected Wyoming’s plan which would allow farmers and others to shoot wolves on sight in some circumstances.

Until Wyoming submits a plan that passes muster with the USFWS, however, neither Idaho nor Montana will be allowed to manage its wolf population.


Crowd favors getting rid of wolves – Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition says support growing. James Hagengruber, Spokane Spokesman-Review (Washington state), January 12, 2004.

Idaho coalition seeks to eliminate fast-breeding wolf. Valerie Richardson, THe Washington Times, October 19, 2003.

Idaho’s wolf plan approved by feds. James Hagengruber, Spokane Spokesman Review (Washington state), January 15, 2004.