Alaska Governor Allows "kill-on-site" Policy for Orphaned Wolf Pups and Bear Cubs
by Nicole Rivard, Friends of Animals Correspondent Shame on Alaska governor Sean Parnell for allowing the "kill-on-site" policy for wolf pups and bear cubs orphaned by state predator control to continue. Friends of Animals has learned from Rick Steiner, professor and conservation biologist, that despite the wildly popular rescue of wolf pups abandoned in the Kenai fire last week, which was covered on national television news, the State of Alaska announced June 2 that it would not alter its "kill-on-site" policy for newborn wildlife orphaned by the state's predator control programs across western and northern Alaska.
These pups escaped death because they were rescued by firefighters before the Alaska Department of Fish & Game could get their hands on them, and have been adopted by the Minnesota Zoo instead of being killed.
But the future is bleak for future pups orphaned after the State of Alaska kills their parents.
After killing all of the adult wolves from two wolf packs on the South Alaska Peninsula in their spring 2008 predator control effort, ADFG biologists pulled 14 newborn wolf pups from the two dens, and shot each in the head. Subsequent public outrage led to the adoption of the state's wolf pup protocol in Nov. 2008, which called for the live collection and placement of orphaned wolf pups in zoos and other facilities.
Then in May 2009, with no public notice, prior to the continuation of the Alaska Peninsula wolf control program, the state adopted a new wolf pup protocol that called for the lethal gassing of wolf pups orphaned by predator control efforts in western and northern Alaska. Although there has never been a reported case of rabies in wolf pups, the rationale the state gave for adopting its new lethal protocol in western and northern Alaska was a purported risk of rabies in wolf pups.
But given the lack of rabies risk, many wildlife advocates feel the new "kill-on-site" protocol was actually adopted for other reasons, including: the current state administration, and its political supporters, harbor an irrational disdain, even hatred, for wolves; in remote areas, without the watchful eye of the news media, the state feels it is more expedient to just kill orphaned pups than to arrange their collection and placement; the state doesn't want to attract attention to the inhumane consequences of its scientifically unjustified predator control programs by providing an opportunity for news media to cover the live collection and placement of orphaned young; and the state doesn't want the public to understand that the "hidden" effects of its predator control programs are far greater than just the number of adults killed.
Wolf pups and bear cubs remain dependent on their parents for more than a year, thus parents killed by state predator control or liberalized hunting and trapping regulations also results in the death of dependent cubs and pups, which are not added to the kill count.
A month after the new kill-on-site protocol was adopted, on June 7, 2009, two newborn wolf pups that had been orphaned by the state wolf control effort in the area, were lethally gassed in their dens with carbon monoxide by ADFG biologists. Their carcasses were not collected and tested for rabies, and left to decompose in the den. This was the first, and so far only, time in state history that newborn wildlife has been lethally gassed. This remains state policy today.
In Feb 2014, ADFG was asked to rescind its 2009 (lethal) wolf pup protocol, and revert to its 2008 (non-lethal) protocol, but the agency declined, again citing its concern for rabies in wolf pups. Then, after the rescue of the five Kenai wolf pups last week the state was asked again to apply this non-lethal collect-and-place protocol to the entire state, arguing not only that there has never been a report of rabies in wolf pups, but also that the half dozen reports of rabies in adult wolves in the historical record (the past 70 years) were all from the Arctic. Thus the risk of rabies from wolf pups, or even adult wolves in the rest of Alaska, is exceedingly low.
Despite this argument, ADFG announced yesterday, in a June 1, 2014 email from Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Doug Vincent-Lang, the following: "We stand by our new wolf pup protocol given advice from our vet regarding rabies. Rabies is a serious disease and I trust the advice of my professionals on this issue. It is fortunate that the wolf pups from the Kenai were from a rabies free zone and could be placed."
The agency did not provide an explanation for why its veterinarians feel rabies in wolf pups presents a risk when there has never been a reported case. Thus, any wolf pups found orphaned by the state's predator control programs in western and northern Alaska will continue to be lethally gassed. Additionally, in a May 29, 2014 press release, ADFG admitted that its biologists had recently (this spring) killed newborn black bear cubs in its Kuskokwim (GMU 19A) predator control effort. Apparently there was no effort made to collect-and-place the newborn bear cubs.
Many Alaskans feel that the government killing of healthy newborn bear cubs and wolf pups is inhumane, unethical and unacceptable and Friends of Animals couldn't agree more. "It takes a troubling, cold-hearted detachment from life to rationalize the killing of innocent newborn animals," said Steiner. "Is this really what Alaska has come to? The state's predator control program is bad enough, but to kill innocent weeks-old wolf pups and bear cubs whose parents have just been killed by gunners in helicopters, exposes a callous depravity that should concern us all. "Perhaps ADFG officials should go before an elementary school assembly and explain to the kids why, after their biologists gun down the parents of bear cubs and wolf pups from helicopters, they then order the orphaned pups and cubs to be gassed or shot instead of rescuing and placing them in facilities to live out their tragically altered lives."