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Extremist reply on predator control proves point of recent column

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2003

My thanks to Keith Phillips for his virulent comments about the predator control column I wrote recently.

He did an excellent job of bringing to life the myths and misconceptions I wrote about.

While Mr. Phillips did not attempt to refute any of the numerous facts I cited, he did offer facts related to the recovery of several species in the Lower 48 at the beginning of the last century.

Had the near extirpation of these species been due to predation, and their recovery been due to predator elimination he would have made a valid point.

Let's try a reality check.

The primary reasons for the near extirpations were loss of habitat due to the emergence of ranching, excessive hunter take and earlier market hunting.

Market hunters put themselves out of business.

Responsible protection of remaining habitat and sustainable limits on hunter take were fundamental to the resulting recovery.

I and the scientists I have consulted with fully support these management techniques.

What we and a majority of Alaskans (including hunters) object to is a massive "experimental" wolf and bear kill to artificially boost moose and caribou numbers.

Mr. Phillips accuses me of portraying "hunters as the terrible evil destroying all wildlife." Wrong. In fact, I complimented hunters who believe in fair chase and balanced ecosystems.

Mr. Phillips' apparent contention was that the facts I relied on were birthed in my imagination.

They were not. Anyone interested in their origin can contact pollster David Dittman, the Board of Game or the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I also consulted with biologist Vic VanBallenberghe, PhD., who is acknowledged to be Alaska's top moose expert, with specialization in predator-moose studies.

Mr. Phillips' venomous letter is a classic example of the idea that fervency of belief is an adequate substitute for relevant facts and reasoned logic.

John Toppenberg, Soldotna



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