A recent article in Slate magazine from October 2014 correctly noted that the hunting of wolves (and bears) by trophy hunters in Alaska has been a popular tool by GOP lawmakers to score local political points in one of the country’s reddest states, as measured by electoral outcomes and political attitudes. The article fails to mention, however, that guided hunts of wolves and bears can fetch $10,000 and more–and the state agency managing game is viewed by some critics as a rubber stamp for business interests who profit from this burgeoning business. I just checked and found out a brown bear hunt now can go as high as $11,500. I met a woman on an Anchorage-bound plane from Maryland once who told me she had spent $10,000 to hunt brown bears in Alaska, and she was extremely excited by the opportunity. Today, in Alaska, you can bait bears, usually with junk food, at bait stations and kill them during season legally in “game management districts.” Leaders who have spearheaded this change to expand the hunting of bears and wolves include former state lawmakers with close ties to state government. Aerial hunting planned six years ago pegged the number of planned wolf kills that year at more than 325. You can read the state’s “messages” that do not publish this other data talking about the business of hunting.
During the Fur Rondy events that precede the Iditarod, pelts and heads of killed wolves become commonplace sites in Anchorage, as displays at events and as products for sale on the streets. Trappers frequently wear wolf-cap headgear to pose with gawking out-of-staters. Here’s a shot I took from one of those events in 2006. Polar bears are legally hunted in Alaska’s North Slope and Arctic communities by Alaskan Native hunters, managed by treaty and regulations. This hide is likely from a legal hunt, and it is almost certain this wolf head is too. There are great differences between hunting for trophies and profit and subsistence hunting. I do support managed hunting, particularly for subsistence purposes by Native Alaskans and other groups globally. I do not support trophy hunting for profit, particularly hunting driven by political agendas that do not promote what I consider to be science-based conservation practices.