Letters to the Editor

Letter: AFN’s perplexing predator-control support

I am greatly disappointed that the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) voted at its recent convention — apparently without opposition or substantial discussion — to express its support for a staterun predator control program intended to boost the Mulchatna caribou herd in Southwest Alaska.

I realize that the region’s Native residents have long hunted caribou as part of their subsistence diet and that all hunting of Mulchatna caribou has been banned since the herd plummeted in size, from 200,000 animals to fewer than 13,000. But predator control is not the answer, especially as practiced this year by Alaska Department of Fish and Game employees.

The department’s own staff has emphasized that other factors played a much greater role in the herd’s decline and failure to rebound than predation by bears and wolves — and Fish and Game officials have admitted there’s no certainty that predator control will benefit the herd. More than that, Fish and Games’ slaughter of nearly 100 bears — including moms with cubs and the cubs themselves — was an appalling, shameful act.

I have often heard and read that central tenets of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples’ beliefs are respect for all life forms and a recognition of our species’ connectedness to larger nature — and that a respectful attitude is important, even essential when taking an animal’s life. Fish and Game’s predator kill showed complete disrespect toward the many bears and wolves that were shot from a helicopter this past spring. It was indeed a massacre. That the AFN can support such carnage is perplexing and, yes, disappointing to me. I would appreciate an explanation from leaders of the AFN and/or villages within the Bristol Bay region, to help me understand their support, an action that seems inexplicable.

— Bill Sherwonit


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Bill Sherwonit

Anchorage nature writer Bill Sherwonit is the author of more than a dozen books, including "Alaska's Bears" and "Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife."