More hunters, more dollars

 

As an avid hunter and wildlife enthusiast, I read your recent feature on Alaska's predator control program with keen interest (HCN, 2/21/2011). Surprisingly, neither writer seems to have grasped the dirty little secret that underlies modern day wildlife management: It's not about wildlife, it's about hunter opportunity. Put simply, anything that negatively impacts huntable populations -- especially ungulates -- is bad, and anything that boosts those populations is good. When game numbers go down, so do license revenues. Forget weather, disease, loss of habitat -- if game quotas are down, there must be a problem. Since no one can control the weather, habitat loss is more of a structural problem, and limiting hunters means reduced license revenue, the easiest way to influence game populations is through predator control.

Author Tracy Ross seems to think that bear baiting is "exciting." Clearly, she doesn't have much experience killing critters. For this hunter, the words, sickening, offensive and pathetic would be more accurate. Bear-baiting and shooting wolves from aircraft is not hunting, which is premised upon fair chase. It is blood sport, pure and simple.

Until wildlife managers and hunters give up on the idea that wildlife populations should remain static at a level that offers maximum hunter opportunity, there will always be a struggle between "good wildlife" and "bad wildlife."

Whether it's wolves and bears eating too many caribou, or foxes eating too many grouse, there will always be predators to demonize. It's hard to fathom how all these species managed to survive together for several millennia before we had planes, poison and traps to save them from each other.

Michael Downey
Helena, Montana