On a beautiful Alaskan summer morning in July of this year, a litter of 4-week-old wolf cubs were napping in the safety of their natal den, cuddled together, little bellies full of mother's milk when suddenly they were roughly pulled, half asleep, into the light of day and one by one, had their brains blown out by a bullet to each one of their tiny little heads. Who could do such a thing? A group of Alaskan state employees who were helicoptered into the wolves habitat at the behest and with the blessing of Gov. Sarah "Terminator" Palin, that's who.
On federal land it is illegal to kill pups in their den (a practice charmingly referred to as "denning") but the mother wolf had made the grave mistake of giving birth to her babies on state owned land, so Palin's posse had the legal right to kill those pups on the spot.
photo credit: First People
The reason Palin and her mighty hunter pals want to kill off most, if not all of the wolves (and bears) in Alaska is to reduce the hunter's competition for the elk and caribou. Even though generations of Alaskans have negatively impacted the caribou and elk population through over-hunting, logging and other human activity, somehow the wolves are being made to pay the price for the decimation of these herds. What state game officials in Alaska will tell you is that it is necessary to kill predators in order to sustain the elk and caribou population, but what they won't tell you is that they kill wolves, bears and other predators in order to artificially boost the herd numbers so there are plenty of animals for the hunters to shoot. Given that only a tiny fraction of the U.S. population must hunt for sustenance and given the fact that our grocery stores are brimming with meat for our dinner tables, why must we mess with the main source of a wolf's diet?
In her all out war against the wolves, Gov. Palin used the power of her office to help defeat a ballot measure in Alaska last month that would have banned the cruel and decidedly unsportsmanlike practice of aerial hunting of wolves. She approved a $400,000 state-funded propaganda campaign to promote aerial hunting and proposed to pay a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of every wolf killed. She is also helping to pass legislation to make it even easier to hunt wolves and bears from aircraft.
And if you are wondering what happened to the wolf cub's mother, well, she, along with the rest of her pack, were killed by the same state employees, only in the mother wolf's case, she died by a bullet (or two or three) shot from a helicopter.
No one can express how I feel about hunting better than Matthew Scully, author of Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy one of the most compassionate books ever written about animals. He writes: "Such terrifying powers we possess, but what a sorry lot of gods some men are. And the worst of it is not the cruelty but the arrogance, the sheer hubris of those who bring only violence and fear into the animal world, as if it needed any more of either. Their lives entail enough frights and tribulations without the modern fire-makers, now armed with perfected, inescapable weapons, traipsing along for more fun and thrills at their expense even as so many of them die away. It is our fellow creatures' lot in the universe, the place assigned them in creation, to be completely at our mercy, the fiercest wolf or tiger defenseless against the most cowardly man. And to me it has always seemed not only ungenerous and shabby but a kind of supreme snobbery to deal cavalierly with them, as if their little share of the earth's happiness and grief were inconsequential, meaningless, beneath a man's attention, trumped by any and all designs he might have on them, however base, irrational or wicked."
Irony of ironies, Matthew Scully also happens to have penned Palin's successful and effective vice presidential acceptance speech. How strange a world we live in and all its contradictions.