"To me this is a very clear cut case. We can either sit, wait, and hope, or we can be proactive and try to do something for our moose population." So said Ted Spraker of the Alaska Board of Game at the board meeting in Anchorage where they voted to start aerial killing of wolves in order to maybe increase the moose population on the Kenai Peninsula.
That statement sounds like the drunk who looks for his keys under the streetlight because that's where the light is. Aerial killing of wolves seems to be under the light because that is where many others have looked for the key to declining moose populations. But that solution at best works temporarily and requires implementation every year.
There are other places to look for keys to declining moose populations and light seems to be shining very brightly on other ideas, such as habitat destruction. In addition the January 27 article by John Morton in the regular feature, Refuge Notebook, illuminates another source of moose decline which maybe just as serious as habitat destruction: moose becoming roadkill. The numbers show that 33 percent of all moose killed by humans are killed by cars and trucks. Remember that moose-vehicle collisions are under-reported, so the real number is closer to 40-45 percent? The resulting cost to both moose and people is huge. The Refuge Notebook article provides a solution which includes wildlife bridges and tunnels and bottomless culverts that prevent moose from crossing the road unless they use a tunnel or bridge or from even being on the roadside at all.
I saw this work in Banff National Park. One evening at near sunset I saw a huge black bear amble through a tunnel under the main highway out in the middle of nowhere. An hour later I saw a bison go through in the opposite direction. Clearly the bison and bear had worked out a mutually agreeable schedule. I stopped to watch because I just could not believe that animals would ever really use such a simple device.
So perhaps this is a solution to two problems, stopping the waste of 250 moose/year and dramatically reducing the huge cost, injury and death of our citizens. I found in a Wikipedia article estimates for the value of a single human life as anything from $50,000/year of productive life remaining to around $6 million. Saving two or three lives would pay for fixing the roadside with special culverts, making tunnels and bridges for moose to cross over roadways in the end the cheapest and an effective solution which is done once, not every year.
Clearly the other problem, habitat destruction, has to be solved as well. Tunnels and overpasses will not feed moose or provide viable areas to calf if both sides of the road have no browse. We need to seek and be open to objective science and not just recycle old ideas and solutions that do not work. And of course, dump the politics.