Breaking news: Obama administration grounds aerial hunting, other inhumane predator-killing practices on refuges in Alaska

By on August 3, 2016 with 52 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

This is a landmark day for some of the nation’s most majestic, recognizable, and woefully mistreated wild animals. And “landmark” barely says enough.

I’m delighted to report that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has followed the National Park Service in prohibiting some of the most wanton and misguided methods utilized to slaughter grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and coyotes on our public lands in Alaska. The new protective regulations were promulgated this day, and cover all of Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges.

These are vast lands, in many ways among the most important wildlands remaining in the world, and they belong to all 300 million-plus Americans. Each of us holds a piece of the deed to these 76-million refuge acres.

With ownership comes responsibility. Meaning that each of us is responsible for the management—the treatment—of the animals who live on these lands.

For years, that’s been a story of unremitting barbarism—shocking comes to mind. Untold numbers of bears and thousands of wolves have been gunned down, shot from the air, killed over bait barrels of meat scraps and jelly donuts, clubbed or shot in their dens, hunted down with lights at night in Alaska. Slaughtered in the name of a stated government mandate of “intensive predator management.”

A glance at the biographies of the seven members of Alaska Board of Game explains the singular and obsessive vision that rules this body: A Safari Club trophy hunter, a trapper, a hunter and guide, an NRA member with a background in hunting and trapping, an “actively involved” member of the NRA, a trapper and bowhunter, and finally a hunting lodge manager.

Still though, why such an assault on these grand animals?

Famed outdoor writer Ted Williams put it this way: The Alaska government has waged war on bears and wolves in “a vain attempt to convert the state to an ever-expanding Stop-and-Shop for moose and caribou hunters.” That’s right, fewer wild predators were supposed to mean more moose and caribou for human hunters like those on the Board of Game—or so the cockeyed thinking went.

The fact that credible scientists have shot holes in that line of reasoning has not stopped the Board of Game from pressing on with its bloody war for decades. The fact that wildlife watchers bring far more money than trophy hunters into the state economy has not stopped it. Common sense and changing public values have not stopped it.

But now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stopped it—on federal wildlife refuges. Those millions of us who take seriously our responsibilities to these animals can lift our eyes. Yes, ordinary hunting is still permitted on these “refuges” and some biologists say the regulations have a shortcoming here and there that will need fixing, but some of the most chilling abuses of these great creatures will no longer occur in our names, and Alaskans resoundingly agree.


Yes, there is a “but” to this story. As regular readers here know, some die-hard reactionaries are trying to engineer a congressional coup to deprive the Fish and Wildlife Service of its responsibility to manage national lands in the national interest.

No deal. We need to uphold these regulations. Contact your federal lawmakers (you can find their contact information here). Politely state the obvious: Public lands are meant to be managed in trust for all of us, not for state boards, not exclusively for trophy hunters, not for any single interest.

Back in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Pelican Island in Florida as the inaugural national wildlife refuge. Today, there are more than 560 refuges and related wetland management districts. They encompass an area of 150 million acres.

Alaskan refuges account for just over half that total. Together, they are an endowment we share, and which we all pay to support. The animals who live there deserve better than they have been receiving. I’m happy that they’re getting a real measure of protective justice now, and I send our thanks to President Obama and his U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for adopting this new, humane, scientifically-sound, and ecologically-minded policy.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    Thank you! Breathing a sigh of relief here in California. It’s about time we heard some good news about Alaska’s wildlife.

    • steve austin says:

      The only thing that takes any joy out of reading your comment *which I like, is the compulsory mention that it come from Ca. Why? This hands smug Alaskans the exact reply they want: that you have no business weighing in. Why? You’re from ‘Outside’ and they 100% left for Alaska (yes, they’re not from there either, often) to *get away from meddlesome folks like you, in the 1st place. Or so they would tell you–just like people from PHX claim they’re tough even though they use the AC all the time. Yes, Alaskans help each other. But, they take take take many times more from the federal gov’t. that they send back. It’s a welfare state. & a nice one.

      • David Bernazani says:

        Steve: I see your point. I just mentioned my state to let Wayne know where we are and what we support.
        But I think it’s important for Alaskans to know that the rest of the country is aware of (and not happy about) how they treat the nation’s wildlife in their state. Note that I didn’t say Alaska’s wildlife– I said the NATION’s, as in all the animals in the national parks & forests, which belong to ALL of us, not just them.

  2. Constance Ruppender says:

    Thank you for writing about this today. I called two of my three legislators. One is not likely to even answer the phone, much less respond in a positive way, so, I called the two that will do something … Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Lois Frankel. They have both proven to be advocates for a “Humane Nation!” Thank you, again, for all HSUS does.

  3. Anne Grice says:

    Yes, at last humanity, responsibility and a conscience. Wild life deserve to be free of wilful destruction suffering and be allowed to fulfil their purpose peacefully & stress free! Thank you.

  4. Andrew says:

    Is there a particular bill or motion we should reference when contacting lawmakers about this?

  5. Joyce Sexton says:

    Thank you President Obama for this legislation, and many thanks to you the Humane Sociey of The United States for fighting to protect our magnificent wildlife. I am so proud to be a member of this organization. Humans who trophy hunt for there own egos, forget that we share this planet with these beautiful creatures who unfortunately can’t speak for themselves.

  6. Mike Adams says:

    This is great news for Alaska’s Bear Population. But this year in New Jersey, we will have to Black Bear Killing weeks. This is in Oct and Dec. Last year over 500 bears where killed in New Jersey. Mothers and cubs are fair game. The Governor of NJ is for the hunt. Most of the population is against the Hunt.
    NJ could use some help in curbing the hate for NJ bears.

  7. Mary Shepherd says:

    Love Obama. A intelligent president. God help us if psychopath Trump gets in. Hillarys not much better.

    • Dorilana says:

      You are delusional if you are comparing Hillary Clinton to Trump!

      Do some research on what she has done for families and children loooong before she ever was married to Bill Clinton.

      I don’t understand where people are getting their information.

      Trump Rallies:

      • Michael McLaughlin says:

        Issue is killing native predators on National Wildlife Refuges, and National Preserves, NOT poloitical propaganda.
        The issue may concern LEGISLATORS, not presidential candidates.
        There is some difference between some positins of two major parties on killing predators, but it must be STRONGLY remembered that the sitting prez participated in an extremely unethical acceptance of a “rider” on an appropriations bill that delisted Rocky mountain population segment wolves before they attained any strong reoccupation of historical habitat still suitable for wolves.
        What this latter means, is that we may NOT expect that a corporate democrat will uphold science-based or conservation-based administrative regulations.

        I can only recommend that those who speciously hijack conservation blog comment columns in the attempt to force their fictions on others refrain from promotional comments on a site intended for humane treatment of other animals, as recent history has shown that neither present major party is strongly skewed toward protection of native North American fauna, most of whom are in dire situations due to human overpopulation, excessive use of projectile weaponry and technologies, and extreme and continuing habitat loss as humans overflow the remaining natural ecosystems.

  8. Mary Shepherd says:

    Love Obama. Intelligent man. Compassionate.


    Thank you Obama for having the good sense to know right from wrong. It’s bad enough hunting animals for the fun of it but to go out and inhumanely slaughter animals is not only sick but shows absolutely no foresight in preserving and conserving our wildlife. This country looks bad enough to the rest of the world for our superiority complex but what makes it worse is when we criticize other countries for the same inhumane, cruel and abusive behavior we exhibit! Shame on those that allow this to happen in the first place!!

  10. Tommy Lee says:


  11. Dorian Mansella says:

    Real hunters, naturalists, explorers, frontiersmen, hikers, preppers, and survivalists all know that such ways of killing are absolutely wrong.

    Us real outdoors people know that are INSTRUCTED by God in the Bible to be a caretaker of such beautiful creatures.

    I am not for President Obama on many things, but this area he is doing very well and this is a great thing he and his people have done.

  12. GPC says:

    Great news!
    Is there a a link to something “official”?

  13. Pat Hatcher says:

    Halleluia Halleluia Halleluia!!!

  14. Karen Blatcher says:

    Please stop the murders of our beautiful natural animal resources. Itis barbaric and ddisgusting. I want my children and grandchildren to see these animals in their natural environment NOT murdered in a trap, shot by trophy hunters nor extinct
    .no one needs their meat to survive.

  15. Suzanne Walsh says:

    It’s about time! These barbaric practices are unacceptable and it grieves me that our sad joke of a fish and game board basically wants to have Alaska be a killing zone for those who have no appreciation or respect and connection to our wild animals and environment.

  16. Margaret Rizzo says:

    This is great news. A ban on ALL hunting in these areas will hopefully follow soon.

    • Zornitsa Ivanova says:

      Bravo and admiration on Obama and his administration for ban hunting.Im from Bulgaria .I hooe in son future in all world ban hunting and kiling on bergerable animaks for meat skin and other.Animal like bears,pugs,sheeps ,cowes and other verterable and even why not and fish are intelligent and lovely can be our friends not our food or leather.I like and politic on Mrs Hilary Klinton she is zgainst slaughtering on horses and against animak abusr.I hope she when be prasident ll ban all kill shelters for dogs and cats in Usa and ll ban gas chembers and killing on this animals.Cats and dogs must be neutered spay and put in no kill shelters in Usa and world and wait for adoption not to be killed.Because Trump not say that he ll protect animals i ll vote for Hullary if i live in Usa..Bravo Hillary for love to animals.

      • David Bernazani says:

        Zornitsa: thank you for your comments all the way from Bulgaria!
        It sounds like you have been paying attention to our elections, as many others around the world do. Sometimes we Americans forget how much we and our government affects the rest of the world, and therefore our decisions on who we elect should be made thoughtfully, with all people in mind, not just ourselves and our own personal whims.
        Nice to hear from you.
        -Dave from California
        P.S. I also hope Trump doesn’t win! I think Hillary may be a bit kinder on animal policies, and certainly better on foreign policy.

  17. Diane Lang says:

    Refuges in Alaska should be just that, a refuge for wildlife so future generations to enjoy the wilderness & the wildlife as it existed hundreds of years ago. These refuges are not just there for the hunters.
    Wildlife viewing is becoming increasingly popular so the wildlife is worth more alive than dead. I travelled from Australia to photograph wildlife in Denali & was shocked that l didn’t see any wildlife. Except one moose. I spent 3 days there, l couldn’t believe how barren the park was. I should have done some research.
    You are the stewards of the living world, protecting it for eternity. Our grandchildren don’t want to only see animals in zoos.


  18. Karen says:

    Wonderful news, thank you for recognizing how cruelly unfair in this method of killing is, all just so that man can do his own trophy killing.
    Now how about protecting America’s Wild Horses from aerial hunts and penning, all in the name of Slaughter and money

  19. Patrick Schramm says:

    Well , it seems like some politicians now understand the importance of protecting nature and wildlife … Nice to hear …thanks Obama

  20. Deborah Chaiken says:

    This is a long overdue decision, but is there any teeth in it? What happens if the state or individual hunters just ignore it? And why should any kind of hunting be permitted in a wildlife “refuge”?

  21. Deidre Bainbridge, JD says:

    Dear Humane Society, We need help in WY to protect our Wildlife from a political process which is not about humanity, the law or a balanced ecosystem supporting viable wildlife species capable of withstanding a changing landscape not at all.Please read this weeks letter to the Editor. Our Jackson Elk Herd which is the Grand Teton National Park Herd is under attack, NEPA is ignored and in 10 days cows and calves will be killed while suckling and all for politics and not “Public Trust”. Please to whom do we turn?

    Protect Our Wildlife-Do Not De-List

    Dear Editor,
    A sad time, so hot and smoky and now in days, the killing of cow and calf elk will start in our neighborhoods, in hunt area 78. Babies, born in July, still suckling, will mew and mew for dead mom, and attract cougar to our yards. Who will care that our park elk herd population is drastically down, below the promised target by perhaps 900 plus, and elk are no longer prevalent in GTNP? Isn’t the park our place for a balanced ecosystem, one with prevalent food for wildlife? We know elk are an important food source for the Grizzly Bear. Starting August 15 until the end of January, more of the declining southern park elk will be killed. This will attract carnivores from park and forest to our neighborhoods. All for the senseless drive to decimate the Jackson Elk herd wintering on the refuge to 5,000, at any cost, including in violation of NEPA and the promises made to the public in the BEMP, (Bison Elk Management Plan), 2007 ROD (Record of Decision).

    With a heavy heart I now pray for lowered speed limits on the highway from Dead Man’s to the Fish Hatchery because the gut piles and gunshots also attract Grizzly Bear. This decimation of the southern park herd is not based upon fact. We counted 110 elk one day in recent weeks. They were just moving through. There were 90 cows and 20 calves in a herd segment that WGFD states is at 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. In reality it is 5 to 1, cows to calves and not sustainable. Recently a herd of 200 cows and calves was counted, 170 cows and 30 calves at Three Creeks. Another area that targets cows and calves in August; again the ratios alleged by WGFD are grossly overestimated. Politics and not public trust is the engine driving this train to the destruction of our wildlife. As the carnivores show up in the neighborhoods, which is all quite predictable, the message to the public is, the Grizzly Bear are here because there are just too many in the park and forest where they belong. This is a blatant lie in the face of in-humane and in fact illegal, mismanagement. Of course this lie will fuel more Grizzly Bear de-Listing propaganda. It’s also very hard because in my neighborhood elk can be shot up against fences, impermeable to wildlife, corralled in pasture watered day and night for weeks. The green grass an attractant while the ranch hands, if not some rancher’s profit, from selling the right to kill corralled, wet elk, mid-August, all with WGFD’s blessing in the political frenzy to decimate the Jackson Elk Herd. In terms of food and habitat change man is making it far worse for the GTNP Grizzly Bear. True protection not less is required for our wildlife, now.

    Deidre J. Bainbridge

  22. lana daglar says:

    these bears are as ant anumal as a dog or a cat why did you gave them an image that they are dangeres? bacaouse thy wanted to protect themself..??? leave them to life to freedom to protection.

  23. Becky Roach says:

    PRAISE God….

  24. Deborah says:

    The header for this post on fb says: “… learn how you can protect this rule from a Congressional attack.” I would be interested, and maybe I missed it, but I see no information or links about this in the article. I share only posts that offer hopeful news of progress or include some action the reader may take to help. Thank you for all your good work!

  25. debra Taylor says:

    Thankyou for stopping aerial hunting in Alaska. Please stop it in Idaho too!!

  26. Tetesa Catherine says:

    Let us be a moral nation, for our people and our wildlands. Saving the creatures we are entrusted to take care of will also help save ourselves, as we are all a part of the ecosystem. Thank you President Obama.

  27. Lou Vellucci says:

    Great news ! Meaningful progress! Now hopefully we can condemn the same inhumane practices in the continental United States, I was horrified to see pictures of hunters using explosive to scare wolves from their dens and shooting them from airplanes

  28. Phall says:

    Made my day THANKYOU so much!
    PLEASE consider putting an end to LIVE TORTURE of animals AMERICA and ASIA
    # Marc Ching# BOKNAL

  29. S. Schroeder says:

    Oh, thank God! Finally some good news! Aerial hunts are evil. We need MORE animals and LESS hunters. Trophy hunting is ugly, reprehensible, greedy and selfish, and it certainly is no longer sustainable in today’s world. Aerial gunning down of predators, like wolves, hurts the eco-system greatly, throws everything off balance. We need to ban the cruel medeival practice of trapping too.

  30. Marilyn Wilson says:

    Thank you! Palin must be freak in out!

  31. Penny Bunnell says:

    Fantastic, now put wolves back on the endangered species list…..PLEASE!

  32. David Randall says:

    Something not mentioned is that a strong predator population improves the health and genetic strength of prey species. Trophy hunters kill the strongest, largest, healthiest of a herd. Animal predators cull the weak and sick. Hunted species grow smaller in size over time, since the most robust are removed from the gene pool. Also of interest are the beneficial changes in vegetation, diversity, even landscapes in Yellowstone since wolves were reintroduced

  33. bill says:

    The true peoples of Alaska never killed any animal this way. Only people from other countries and the lower 48 states. If people would leave Alaska alone to the native peoples it would be a much better place!

  34. Jessica K Shepherd says:

    Thank you for making my day with this groundbreaking and life saving news for Alaskan Wildlife and the people who work to protect world wildlife.
    Just shake President Obamas hand for standing by your work ,,, or world needs more of actions like this so thanks and thanks on behalf of the wild natures themselves, everywhere.

  35. Christine bull says:

    We need to protect the animals of this world

  36. Cheechako Quiroz says:

    In the first place why is this still allowed…? It seems Republicans do whatever they want , specially hunting for the money…

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