This story was first published July 26, 2000
FAIRBANKS -- A wildlife biologist who has been a thorn in the side of Alaska trappers and state wolf control specialists for years says he's more determined than ever to continue his research.
Those comments came Monday, several days after Gordon Haber and the animal rights group Friends of Animals were ordered to pay a Tok trapper almost $190,000 for their roles in the release of a live wolf from a snare.
''If they think I'm going to go away licking my wounds, they're wrong, '' Haber said. ''It just makes me more determined to get out there.''
A jury in Tok ordered Haber to pay almost $40,000 and Friends of Animals to pay $150,000 in damages to Eugene Johnson, who sued both parties after Haber released an injured wolf from one of his snares more than three years ago.
Haber said he wasn't terribly surprised by Friday's jury decision.
''The trapper was from Tok. The jurors were all from Tok. Tok is a trapping community. ''Obviously it was going to be an uphill battle, '' Haber said.
Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral said Monday she wasn't sure if her group will appeal.
''We have other places to go and I expect we'll go there, '' she said from the group's headquarters at Darien, Conn. ''I don't think the verdict should be allowed to stand.''
Friends of Animals has been the primary funding agent for Haber's work since 1993. But Haber denies he's an employee of any organization, choosing instead to use the title ''independent research scientist.''
In its verdict, the jury said Haber was acting as an employee of the animal rights group when he released the wolf. That resulted in the judgment against Friends of Animals.
Haber said the five-woman, one-man jury ''wanted to stick it to Friends of Animals.'' He still maintains he is not an employee of the animal rights group.
''Scientists get sources of funding. That doesn't mean you're somebody's hired gun, '' Haber said. ''That doesn't mean they know what I'm doing or have any control of what I'm doing. You get funding and you operate on your own.
''I'm as independent as the day is long, '' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Friends of Animals paid Haber's legal fees for the trial.
''I decided to do that because of Gordon's dedication and I thought it was the right thing to do, '' Feral said.
Johnson's attorney, Zane Wilson of Fairbanks, said his client feels vindicated.
''There's nobody else I'd rather bring a claim against than some animal rights people, '' said Wilson, who also is a hunter and trapper who grew up in Tok. ''What they're trying to do to the people who hunt and trap in the state of Alaska is very offensive to me.''
Haber contends that Johnson was operating illegally because the snaring site was littered with at least four dead caribou that had been caught in snares. If troopers had prosecuted Johnson, then the trapper would not have been able to file a civil suit against Haber.
Haber said he has documented almost 10,000 locations of radio-collared wolves and caribou in the past decade and has found fewer than a dozen live wolves in traps.
''It's clearly a negligible sidelight to what I'm doing out there; it's negligible, '' he said. ''I never had the intent to go out and release peoples' wolves.
''My purpose out there is to do biology and try to offer a different perspective to help decide on the management of wolves and other animals people eat.''
Haber said his work provides ''a chance for Alaskans to get another source of information.''
Alaska Trappers Association president Pete Buist said the jury's decision sends a message to animal rights groups that ''at least rural people in Alaska aren't going to stand for this kind of nonsense.''