In Alaska, predator control of wolves and bears is currently being used as a means to increase the number of moose and caribou for hunter harvest. Even though more than 100 wildlife professionals recently sent a letter to Alaska state officials saying the current program to reduce bear and wolf numbers conflicts greatly with the recommendations made by scientists of the National Resource Council, 7 new predator control programs have been put into effect by the current administration and additional programs are being considered. Tens of thousands of square miles in Interior and southcentral Alaska are selected for predator control. This winter along the Parks Highway the automobile looks to be the biggest predator of moose and caribou. Just 2 evenings ago several of us witnessed a big prime moose killed by a passing truck which was going way too fast to slow down for this obstacle. This is the third moose, in addition to 6 caribou that have been killed along the highway in the Denali Park area recently.
Moose are large and strong with acute senses of smell and hearing and have incredible endurance and speed. These characteristics are the result of the fact that their evolutionary history was shaped by the predators that evolved with them. Bears and wolves evolved characteristics which make them remarkable predators. Their intelligence, sense of smell, remarkable endurance and strength is necessary for them to survive on the prey they depend on. Predators and their prey evolve together as each develops the needed skills and physical abilities to survive. Natural predation is not the cause for extinction, in many cases it is the impetus for survival of prey. Populations of moose have always persisted with their predators. Moose populations may sustain heavy losses this winter because of collisions with automobiles and trains, severe winter snow falls and starvation, and predation by wolves. It has been well documented in natural settings that even if predation reduces moose numbers, the predators themselves decline as their food supply shrinks. Winters such as this years, with deep snow, gives wolves the advantage. It will be mainly the very young, the old, or the infirmed animals that will fall to predation. If moose populations decline this winter and hunting opportunities suffer predator control will be even more favored by this administration, even if predators arent the real problem. Predator control is based on public policy not biology. Large-scale aerial wolf-shooting programs is not wildlife management based on sound science. If we can no longer affect the current political process the least we can do is drive cautiously and slow down for moose and caribou.