Feds Subsidizing Slaughter of Wild Predators
Alaska Agents in Helicopters Shoot 100 Bears to Bolster Game Population
Washington, DC — Alaska’s largest lethal removal of predators in its history represents both a biological black eye and a blatant misuse of federal conservation funding, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER is urging the Secretary of Interior to adopt a rule prohibiting use of federal money to states engaged in excessive predator control.
In a three-week period ending on June 4, 2023, Alaska Department of Fish and Game employees killed 94 brown bears (including cubs), five black bears, and five wolves through aerial gunning from helicopters. The shootings occurred across 1,200 square miles of tundra in Southwest Alaska. It is believed to be the largest predator removal in state history with the carnage exceeding four times the number of animals state biologists predicted would be dispatched.
“This is a disgraceful operation that has no place in modern wildlife management,” declared Rick Steiner, a renowned ecologist, former University of Alaska-Fairbanks professor, and Chair of PEER’s Board of Directors, “Alaska’s predator removal program – euphemistically termed ‘Intensive Management’ – is unscientific, unnecessary, ineffective, unethical, and inhumane.”
Most of Alaska’s entire game budget consists of federal funds dedicated to wildlife conservation. PEER is pressing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which administers these funds, to cease funding Alaska’s Intensive Management program because it violates the statutory mandate to “conserve all wildlife” and is deigned solely to increase game animals, such as caribou and moose, for purposes of hunting, rather than maintain healthy, sustainable ecosystems.
The federal agency rebuffed PEER’s latest complaint filed this past December in a May 23 letter which concluded that under current regulations it has a very limited ability “to evaluate the conservation value of State wildlife management programs” and that, while substantial federal funds are used to support the program, the actual killing is funded with non-federal dollars.
PEER is leading a coalition of conservation groups that submitted a rule-making petition charging the Secretary of Interior with a responsibility to assess the ecological effect of state practices and to deny funding to states pursuing wildlife management practices inconsistent with the national goal of naturally diverse wildlife populations and healthy predator-prey dynamics. That petition was filed in September 2021 and has yet to receive a response. In light of Alaska’s latest action, PEER is redoubling its efforts to induce Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to finally act on the petition.
“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service should stop funding the state’s senseless campaign against bears and wolves,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, pointing to the role state game policies play in keeping predator species, such as grey wolves and grizzly bears, under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. “These federal funds are supposed to be used for wildlife conservation, not decimation.”