Alaskan animal protection advocates are leading a ballot initiative in Alaska that would prohibit the killing of wolves with wire snares.
Wolf snares are wire loops designed to catch a wolf around the neck. One end of the wire loop is anchored to a tree or bush and there is a loop at the other end. There is a cinching device that allows the loop to get smaller, but not bigger. The idea is that the wolf gets the loop caught around the neck and is strangled as he or she struggles to escape.
But in practice, wire snares often get wrapped around wolves'paws, noses, or stomachs. These wolves do not die quickly but linger, striving to escape. Alaska does not even require trapper sto check their snares, so an animal may struggle in agonizing pain for days or more, before dying.
Today, wolf snaring in Alaska is typically done "saturation" style. Saturation snaring is a technique where dozens of wolf snares are set at one location. Caribou or moose entrails are often used as bait to attract wolves.
Saturation snaring catches not only wolves—the target species—but also game animals. For example, from 1993 to1995, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sponsored a wolf-control program primarily relying on snares. For the 109 wolves which were taken, 94 non-target animals were caught, including 35 moose, 14 caribou, 26 red fox, 10 coyotes, 4 golden eagles, 2 grizzly bears and 3 wolverines. This is the only hard data available on the "incidental take'' of non-target animals since Alaska trappers are not required to report when they kill non-target animals. However, reports from wolf biologist Gordon Haber and others indicate that these high rates of incidental kills are typical for wolf snare trappers.
The Coalition for the Alaskan Way of Life, the opponent of Ballot Measure 9, claims in television and newspaper ads that Ballot Measure 9 would ban the ownership of existing clothing and heirlooms made from wolves taken in snares. This falsehood is simply ridiculous and reflects a ludicrously new low in campaign strategy. They are being funded primarily by the "Ballot Initiatives Coalition," a collection of groups that include the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Association, the North American Wild Sheep Foundation, Safari Club International, and the National Rifle Association.
Saturation snaring is the favored method of wolf bounty trappers in Alaska. These trappers have been paid a $400 per wolf bounty by a private group of hunters. Bounty trappers almost exclusively use aircraft to access their traplines, and leave wolves and other animals for weeks in snares because dead animals act as bait forothers. They care not for the suffering of the wolves, nor even for the quality of the fur, but only want the bounty. For more information please contact Alaskans Against Snaring Wolves, 3820 Lake Otis Parkway #105, Anchorage, AK 99508, 1-888-699-WOLF.
AWI Quarterly, Summer 1998, Vol. 47, No. 3