From Our Readers
I have never been as disgusted as I was when I read about Sarah Palin and her vendetta against predators in “Kill, Baby, Kill” [Incite, July-August]. People should be smart enough to know predators are here for a reason. Truckloads of skinned wolf carcasses are revolting, killing cubs in their dens is really sick, and shooting wolves from a plane is just awful. I am not against hunting deer or moose and elk for meat—after all, legal hunting does help to keep things in balance if it’s done in the proper way. In my opinion, Palin is courting votes to become “our” president—but she won’t get my vote! I am writing the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce to give them a piece of my mind. No bucks for tourism from me!
Heber Springs, AR
I was quite upset after reading “Kill, Baby, Kill.” Several years ago I took my grandson on an Elderhostel trip to the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. We learned a great deal—including how the wolves had been hunted almost to extinction. While I realize that Minnesota is a great deal more populated and that the wolves had been considered a problem, educating the public has led to more understanding of wildlife. Sarah Palin should take some of these classes.
I was reading “Kill, Baby, Kill” when Governor Palin announced on TV that she would resign from office. I could not help but think that Ted Williams is sure a powerful influence. Please thank him for me.
Mountain Rest, SC
Alaska has gone overboard again on trying to meet the demands of a small group of moose and caribou hunters. The state has done this in the past, with dismal results. A short passage in The Last of the Bush Pilots (Knopf, 1969), by Harmon Helmericks, a highly recognized Alaskan bush pilot who guided and flew hunters throughout Alaska in the 1950s and 1960s, addresses this subject (on pages 131-132). I also flew in the Alaskan bush in the late 1970s and early 1980s and can attest to the rarity of actually spotting a wolf from the air. Seeing a wolf pack on the move is a beautiful event. There is no reason for their wholesale slaughter.
Redondo Beach, CA
We recognize that views on Alaska’s predator management programs vary. We welcome fact-based discussion and take issue with Ted Williams’s one-sided opinion piece, “Kill, Baby, Kill.” Much of the opposition to our efforts has come from well-meaning individuals who may not have all the facts or, if they’ve read only pieces such as the one by Mr. Williams, have heard only part of the story.
The fact is, our department’s focused and scientifically based predator management helps provide more moose and caribou for the tables of Alaskans. Because many Alaskans depend on wild foods, our department actively manages both predator and prey populations in some areas.
Alaska continues to have robust populations of wolves, bears, and other wildlife, and our management practices are designed to ensure we keep it that way.
Doug Larsen, Director,
Division of Wildlife Conservation
Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Juneau, AK
Ted Williams responds: Apparently Mr. Larsen considers the wildlife professionals I interviewed, such as the supervisor of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a Forest Service wolf biologist with four decades of experience, and Mr. Larsen’s own wildlife biologist as “well-meaning individuals” bereft of facts. As I repeatedly demonstrated in the piece, what Mr. Larsen calls “scientifically based predator management” is neither scientific nor management.
Like weeds, wolves need to be killed; they are that good at what they do. I am a hunter and have roamed British Columbia and Alaska for years. My children were taught how to snare the predator. We eat what we kill. Wolves not only kill to eat, they sometimes kill just to kill. In the land north of Galena, the moose has been decimated by the wolf. The story I hear from folks in Alaska and British Columbia is much different than your article. The lies make me want to vomit.
As we look to science to understand how we interact with the world in which we live, it is disturbing that Audubon would print erroneous, political, and emotional misinformation regarding predator control and its effect on the ecosystem. Alaska Fish and Game wildlife researcher Sean Farley seems not to understand anything about predators, their habitat, their feeding habits, or the ecosystems in which they exist. Printing such an article flies in the face of documented scientific evidence.
Today it is easy to get instant applause simply by picking out a visible public figure and blaming them for all the ills of the world. Palin is just the latest celebrity to be hated. Regretfully, while this gains quick notoriety, it fails to say anything about facts and science.
It should not be news to informed individuals that wolves, bears, and, probably most importantly, coyotes can kill off the food sources in an area before they themselves succumb to starvation and/or migration. In our world today, with billions of people, we work hard to balance ecosystems so there are resources for all.
I think Audubon owes all its readers an apology and a retraction of the inflammatory and inaccurate information contained in this misguided article.
Ted Williams responds: I have never understood how people like Mr. Banwell can immerse themselves in nature and still confuse the vital role of native apex predators like wolves with the impacts of invasive exotics like weeds. Since Mr. Solvang declined to specify how my piece was “erroneous,” I can’t respond other than to note that he suffers under the delusion that native predators in native ecosystems are capable of “consuming all” their prey. It can’t happen. He needs to ask himself how those predators could have survived during the millions of years before modern humans arrived to save them from themselves. As I repeatedly demonstrated with documented case studies, the “clear” evidence Mr. Solvang cites is junk science.
BONUS “PACK MENTALITY” LETTERS
I thought I was subscribing to a science magazine, but I’m now finding, sadly, that a political agenda is more important to you than science. I don't know why you and others want to attack former-governor Palin rather than make a logical, thought-out case for a position. I am an independent voter and actually voted for President Obama, but I respect the rights of all Americans. Please stop this trend of personal attacks.
Words cannot express the outrage I felt reading “Kill, Baby, Kill.” Obviously, Sarah Palin is not the first governor to do this. Alaska is a place of great beauty and so is its wildlife. I have always wanted to visit Alaska but not now under the present policies.
Sarah Palin’s and her supporters’ mean, blind, bloody, unnecessary campaign to vigorously kill bears and wolves to provide more moose for humans will haunt them some day. In Montana, our onslaught against predators stopped mid-1960s (before the ’30s people spread poisoned meat across our land from airplanes). Imagine the innocent victims of that blunt effort—chickadees that like fatty meat in winter, blue jays, magpies, dog, bears, badgers, coyotes, eagles. Alaska, I thought those hateful days of persecution were over?
I am one of those from "outside" Alaska and read “Kill, Baby, Kill,” with frustration and anger. One feels so helpless when sound science and management are ignored by the government, which is supposed to take care of the state's natural resources. I am grateful that we have people like Ted Williams to expose this blatant abuse of our country's wildlife.
I plan to write to the suggested websites at the end of the article. I would be curious to know how many Alaskans subscribe to Audubon. This is a worthwhile issue to pass around to the people of Alaska.
Mill Valley, CA
Please let us add a bit to the Ted Williams piece on wolf control in Alaska. We studied moose habitats in Alaska from 1989 to 2002 while living in McGrath. Food plants that can sustain healthy moose populations during severe winters are not abundant in Alaska. Here are some reasons why: Moose habitats and foods change during the year with the climatic shifts that mark the seasons and between years during the same season due to differences in weather. And so does the capacity of these habitats to sustain moose. Moose must enter winter (their most seasonally limiting habitat) in good condition, and then they must have access to sufficient quality and quantity of browse plant species. Winter survival depends on the density of food plants (as the snow gets deeper plants must be closer together), their twig size distribution (twigs can be too small for sufficient intake or too large for sufficient quality), their energy content, and their content of defensive compounds (chemicals that deter browsing). Making these determinations requires much field and lab work. It turns out that only a tiny fraction of landscapes produce an adequate quantity and quality of winter moose food.
An easier way to look at these questions is to ask if moose (particularly calves) starve during deep snow winters. If the answer is yes, then there should not be more moose—and the answer is yes in much of Alaska. The density of moose per unit of land in Alaska may seem low, but moose density relative to the area of real food in winter habitat is high. Browsing levels in these critical winter habitats on actual food is also high. If you want to know the future Alaska is starting towards, visit lands in the lower 48 where wild or domestic herbivores have been maintained at too high densities for decades. The most nutritious food plants have been lost or reduced to remnants.
Robert and Beverly Skinner
|Copyright (C) Mediagraphics, Inc. North America Syndicate
Ed Crankshaft is the hero of the comic strip by Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers. A former minor league pitcher who now drives a school bus, Crankshaft amuses loyal fans with “his no-holds-barred zingers and cantankerous disposition.” It seems Ted Williams and his look-alike share more than a pretty face.
As much as I appreciated your article on Bonaire and its endangered population of parrots [“Parrots of the Caribbean,” July-August], I couldn’t help but wonder if it was such a good idea to publish the story of this island “yet to be discovered for its birding” along with information on air service there. One of the gravest dangers to any group of wild creatures is too many people. Why not keep Bonaire less discovered and give the yellow-shouldered parrot a little more breathing room?
Ted O’Callahan responds: The concern Mr. Marshall raises about the consequences of writing about an undiscovered place is one I struggle with. While Bonaire is undiscovered for birding, it is already a well-known scuba diving destination. Bonaire hasn’t degraded its resources too much yet (at least compared with other Caribbean islands), but because almost all of its economic activity comes from tourism, it will soon enough be “loved to death,” unless visitors demand green travel options. Further, if there is more money to be made protecting wild birds such as the yellow-shouldered parrot for tourists to see than from poaching, poaching would stop—either because poachers work to support the birds directly or because of the social pressure put on them by the community.
CORRECTION The portrait of Jonathan Singer (July-August 2009, page 60) should have been credited to Howard Schatz, whose wide-ranging work includes 17 monographs, among them works of dance, sport, portraiture, fashion, and a remarkable series of flower images called Botanica. His work can be seen at www.howardschatz.com.
Send letters via postage-saving e-mail to email@example.com, or by mail to Editor, Audubon, 225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014. Include the correct spelling of your full name, city, and state.
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