During the campaign, some critics of Sarah Palin ridiculed her efforts to thin the wolf population by shooting them from helicopters, painting her as cruel and anti-nature. The Anchorage Daily News reports that the caribou population might dispute that. Thanks to the limitation of the predators, the survival rate of young caribou has dramatically increased:
Slaughtering wolves on the Alaska Peninsula appears to have had the desired effect — more caribou got a chance to live, according to biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
As ugly and as politically incorrect as the wolf killing might seem to some, they said, the helicopter gunning that took place earlier this year saved caribou, especially young caribou, from being eaten alive.
Fall surveys of the Southern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd completed in October found an average of 39 calves per 100 cows. That’s a dramatic improvement from fall counts of only 1 calf per 100 cows in 2006 and 2007.
The state wildlife board needed to take dramatic action on behalf of the caribou in the southern herd. The population had dropped from 6,000 to 500. Wolves and bears had wiped out the offspring for too long, and left alone, the herd would have disappeared altogether.
Unfortunately, critics didn’t bother to find out why Palin’s administration thinned the wolf population by the most efficient manner available to them. Critics of responsible wildlife management seem to live in Cartoon World, where the wolf and the bear and the caribou all become best friends and have adventures together with the plucky little kid from the local village. In fact, the wolf and the bear will eat the caribou until there are none left, and would have the plucky little kid for dessert if they could.
The biggest irony, of course, is that the critics of drilling in ANWR like to invoke the caribou as a reason to block extraction of the vast oil resources in the region. The wolves present a far greater danger to caribou than drilling ever did, but I guess caribou are only valuable as a means to block drilling.