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September 12, 2008

Palin championed aerial hunting of wolves

As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin teamed up with lobbyist for the hunting industry to champion the aerial hunting of wolves an bears. In 2007, she spent $400,000 of taxpayer's money to propagandize the public about the benefits of shooting wildlife with air supremacy:

The controversy over Palin's promotion of predator control goes beyond animal rights activists recoiling at the thought of picking off wolves from airplanes. A raft of scientists has argued that Palin has provided little evidence that the current program of systematically killing wolves, estimated at a population of 7,000 to 11,000, will result in more moose for hunters. State estimates of moose populations have come under scrutiny. Some wildlife biologists say predator control advocates don't even understand what wolves eat.

State officials stand by their scientific findings on predator control. "Several times over the past several years, our science has been challenged in court," says Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "In every instance it has prevailed." [Salon]

Now an environmental group is taking Palin to task for her record on aerial hunting. Be warned, the ad is graphic, disturbing, and factual:

Aerial hunting is an affront to honorable hunters and animal lovers because it's unsportsmanlike and pseudoscientific.


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Sometimes you need a chuckle just to take the mind off the pain:

As a Jesus-fearing moose-hunting hockey-mom mother of five who hunts moose for Jesus, Sarah Palin is kin to the wild outdoors and appreciates its bountiful splendor as she is gunning it down from her airplane. Sarah Palin understands that America is dangerously addicted to oil, and that the only cure is more oil. She also understands that nature is our natural enemy, created by a malevolent Satan to come between us and our God-given oil deposits with its hateful, clean water and its foul, pristine air. But Sarah Palin also also knows that we've got to leave this earth behind for our children, at least until we can find a way to drill for oil in our children. Sarah Palin is committed to exploring Baby Trig's vast and abundant petroleum reserves.

Thank you>Planned Parenthood Action Fund has picked up the obvious question from the last few days and asks if John McCain is opposed to teaching young kids how to recognize child molesters and seek help, given McCain's and the Republican Party's harsh attack on Obama for trying to support just that.

About. God. Damned. Time.>

Please forward this, and support Planned Parenthood for having more guts to ask what needed to be asked of these reprobate sleazeballs.

I wouldn't support having Sarah Palin shot, but I think it might be a good idea if someone were to fly a plane over her and shoot a few rounds that narrowly miss her and maybe splash a bit of dirt on her feet from hitting the ground nearby her. It would, of course, require a skilled shooter to do this without hitting her herself.

I mean, she has to learn what she's advocating and subsidizing somehow. How else could she learn?

That ad lacked impact for me. It will lack impact for most people who would likely vote for that... person. A better ad would emphasis not the killing of wild animals, but the fact that dive-bombing a wolf in a snowfield is just crazy. Also, it needed to emphasize that wolves are like feral dogs; otherwise, the audience might think wolves are pests and not care. One last thing: maybe this was because it was a youtube video, but since the image was blurry, it didn't seem graphic at all. Or maybe i'm desensitized...

Personally, I'm promoting the hunting of hockey moms in helicopters from the back of wolves.

Sadly, the Republicans have latched onto the minor point and keep going on about how Palin never hunted wolves from an airplane herself. Of course, that misses the point and fails to see the sarcastic humor of a given blog post or comment. Nothing we can do about that. More to the point, the science used to justify the "culling" of wolves has big glaring flaws. There exists no evidence that wolves compete with humans for caribou, moose or elk. Those who have actually bothered to study the animals have found that they scavenge the big ruminates, but they hunt mostly rodents. They're wolves, not lions, folks.

And a quick aside, I noticed an answer by Palin to a question about birth control included the caveat "as long as it is not an abortifactant." This coincides with the Bush Administration's attempt by regulatory fiat to re-define birth control pills as a form or abortion to exclude them from being paid for in anyway by tax dollars or to allow insurance companies to disallow them in their drug plans. I have not seen any other blog or news source pick up on this (yet). Birth control's in the cross-hairs along with abortion, wolves, and lots of other stuff. Anybody read/hear anything?

as a hunter, a life long hunter who grew up on a reservation where hunting some small game was the difference between a good meal and nothing, let me say that first off, the hunting of wolves is destructive to the environment in and of itself. the main prey of wolves is rabbits, mice, and rats. they actually help deer, elk, and cattle populations when they are there with them. the game that the wolves focus on is destructive and competitive. without the wolves the explosions of rodent population not only reduces the amounts of forage available to the ungulates, the increase in rodent borne disease is also destructive to them.

shooting with automatic weapons from aircraft is not hunting. it's shooting and killing. it is as far removed from real hunting as when dick cheney went down to texas and shot cage raised quail and his attorney.

folks who engage in this kind of slaughter are not welcome in my woods.

although, if they would like to pay my son his guide fees he'll be glad to show them what real hunting looks like. muzzle loaders, open sights, lots and lots of walking and carrying heavy loads on your back.

As I've said elsewhere, I think this ad is going to do more harm than good. I have a pretty good feel for how this is going to come off to the folks back home in rural MO, and that's as an anti-hunting ad...or, at least, as an anti-shooting-wolves ad made by people whose real agenda is at least partially anti-hunting.

Is this issue really that important and helpful to us given all the other failings of Palin?

My guess is that Dems should drop this issue--and they should definitely drop this ad.

Where I work I receive copies of the Oregon State Fish and Wildlife management bigwig’s meeting’s minutes and notes. Letters and emails from the public accompany them. Usually things like quotas on commercial fisheries and elk and deer seasons and limits include a smattering of public comments and the whole package generally amounts to less than a hundred pages. Whenever wolves come up (lately they’re swimming in across the Snake River from Idaho) public comment goes to hundreds of pages. Opinion on both sides is usually divided roughly evenly pro and anti wolf. The competence of argument on both sides ranges from well reasoned and articulate to reflexively imbecilic. My favorite (which was pinned on the wall for a while) was one in which the writer said that Oregon had done just fine without wolves since the early 20th century and that if we did have to have wolves then they should be in Eugene where they could eat the hippies.

With respect to Gov. Palin’s bounty, first, we need to remember that Alaska, just like the rest of the world, has long ceased being a wilderness. Fish and wildlife there, as they are anywhere, are managed resources like timber or water or minerals. Alaska in that respect is no different than California or France.

Second, predator control may be necessary in order to achieve certain desirable goals. On Alaska’s Aleutian Islands for instance, arctic and red foxes were released a century and more ago to provide trapped furs. The foxes proceeded to gobble up nesting seabirds and the Aleutian Island Canada goose. (A small, almost duck-like subspecies that winters in California and Oregon) During the Aleutian summer, the geese nest on the ground and molt their feathers, including flight feathers, rendering them temporarily flightless. Eggs, hatchlings, and adults all sitting ducks, so to speak, for foxes. The goose was facing extinction, having been entirely extirpated over most islands in its range. The foxes were killed off the islands with compound 1080 dropped by air and geese are now nesting on islands that hadn’t seen a goose in over a century. Compound 1080 -sodium monofluoroacetate- is not pretty. The foxes died a miserable death and many of their carcasses were left poisonous enough to kill ravens and bald eagles that scavenged them. Also, the Aleutians are now infested with zillions of rats, introduced mostly during WW II that are no longer being eaten by foxes. The rats however live mostly near the shore while the geese nest inland and are unmolested by the rats. The rats to varying degrees affect some seabirds and right now there’s nothing to be done, rat predators having to some extent replaced fox predators. Aleutian Canada geese were thought to be extinct by 1960 and have now been removed from the endangered species list.

The point of the Aleutian fox/goose story is that a great deal of study had gone into the decision to kill the foxes. The goose’s situation was dire. Alternative methods had been considered. - Releasing sterilized red foxes that would out-compete arctic foxes for instance. Trapping foxes in the Aleutians had ceased to be profitable or even possible. A rational, systematic plan with a realistic probability, realistically assessed, was developed and successfully implemented. The consequences are not entirely satisfactory –rats- but are good enough for the goal in mind. Though your perspective might be different if you were a puffin and rats were eating your hatchlings. A blanket, shotgun (so to speak) approach to predator control by implementing bounties and vastly expanding the permissible hunting area smacks of pandering to hunting interests as opposed to careful and systematic assessment of specific goals with respect to specific ungulate prey populations. Palin’s is a political, not a biological approach to predator management.

Wolves do eat large ungulates. That’s the point of packs and wolves’ social structure, which enable cooperative hunting. They can and do kill healthy, adult moose and elk, though adult bison are a bit more than even determined packs of wolves can generally handle (not calves however). They can and do affect moose, caribou, elk, and etc. populations. The notion that removing X pounds of predator automatically yields an increase of Y pounds of huntable prey however is simplistic to the point of being useless or even counterproductive. The case can be made that controlling wolf populations at certain times and places is necessary, even critical, for the survival of particular ungulate populations. Woodland caribou in South East Canada have steadily lost range over the last few decades and the evidence is pretty good that killing wolves might help them.

The history of predator control is however replete with cases of unintended consequences and entirely unforeseen effects. The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park for example, has seen the unexpected wholesale regrowth of riparian (streamside) vegetation. Elk and bison tend to shelter along streams where they can find cover and water. Wolves keep elk particularly on the move and up on hillsides where they can’t strip away the willow and alder that would otherwise colonize stream banks. The effect of reintroduction of wolves has been not only regrowth of streamside vegetation, but also the fauna associated with that vegetation. There are beaver and a host of birds now in areas of the park where they’ve been missing for the last century. Trout, which require shaded, cool, clean streams will probably also be more abundant now. (Unless exotic New Zealand mudsnails fuck up all the streams in the Yellowstone Basin. Remember, there are no true wildernesses left.)

As for the ethics of causing wolves suffering or the unsportsmanlike practice of aerial shooting, I’m not that concerned. Predator management will involve shooting, poisoning, or trapping, all of which cause the animals a pretty dreadful death. I completely support aerial shooting of feral goats (which can be considered plant predators) on the Channel Islands off California or mountain goats in Olympic National Park. If there’s no other way to reach the targeted animals then aircraft will do.

Ham-fisted approaches to wolf management like Palin’s may be charitably described as stupid at best. What may work for wolves in the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska will be wholly inappropriate for the Alexander Archipelago wolf in Southeast Alaska. Alaskans (And the rest of the citizens of the US. - Alaska hasn’t seceded yet, despite the efforts of the Alaska Independence Party.) need to ask themselves what they’re trying to accomplish with wolf control. Should Alaskan wildlife retain some semblance of the ecological balance it had when Alaska was purchased from Russia, or should it be managed as a kind of game-farm/meat-locker?

When people first came to Alaska (or perhaps just skirted along its southern coast according to recent theories.) some twelve thousand or a little more years ago, it was home to mammoths, steppe bison, wild horses, saiga, camels, lions, scimitar cats, and giant Arctodus “bulldog” bears. The Bering Sea and what are now endless tracts of taiga were a vast plain of steppe grasses and a Serengeti scale fauna. Paleontologists refer to it as the “mammoth steppe”. The present Alaskan landscape must be regarded as transitional, and in geological and evolutionary timescales even as ephemeral and fragile. We know, even if Palin doesn’t, that global warming is already changing Alaska and the Canadian Arctic faster and more profoundly than the rest of the continent. Alaska is becoming, inevitably, industrialized like the rest of the United States. Wildlife management in Alaska should consider both history and future contingency with its ineluctable uncertainty. Governor Palin’s idiotic $150.00 wolf paw bounty insults wildlife, Alaska, and common sense, as well as wolves.

Though I've always been against hunting for sport- in my view, the only valid target is one that shoots back- I was impressed with Minstrel Hussein's and Cfrost's well-thought-out words on the subject...would that all AK hunters have similar attitudes.

She advocates killing from the air, precluding the tracking of the prey and the physical effort that many hunters enjoy. Oh, whitey whites from the lower 48 would like this much besser as the kill is assured and all it took was money.

Let us support true Alaskan hunting. Obsidian points and woodcraft. All else is easy.


She's got to be right because god is on her side.

Although I would agree that wolf hunting from the air appears to be unsportsmanlike, I have to raise the question, why is it necessary? Are there so many wolves that they threaten the population of certain species? Perhaps the ease of air hunting was voiced to be a "quick fix" solution. Other solutions should also be brought up.

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