Alaskans see red over reindeer cull
Thursday 24 December 1992
The slaughter, by rifle-fire from helicopters, is the work not of hunters but of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which says it is saving the reindeer from a more painful death - starvation - this winter. Of a herd of about 900, about 580 have been killed so far. A lucky few have been airlifted away in privately sponsored mercy flights aboard an antique DC-3 cargo plane.
The cull was temporarily suspended three weeks ago, ostensibly because of the onset of the long Arctic nights and freezing conditions. But Wildlife Service officials admit they were unprepared for the strength of public protest, from local native communities and from animal lovers across the US.
No one disputes, however, that the plight of the reindeer, stranded on deserted Hagemeister Island two miles off Alaska's west coast, is genuine. They are the progeny of a herd of just 150 introduced to the island in 1965 by an Inuit entrepreneur, Jack Gosuk, who intended to farm them for meat and their antlers. But the herd was poorly managed and ballooned in size. Last spring Mr Gosuk gave it up, selling it to the Wildlife Service for one dollar.
The animals are now in crisis because the island, just 24 miles long, no longer has the vegetation to support them. Crucially, the lichen which reindeer find in winter by pawing away the snow has all but been exhausted.
'We have a responsibility to bring a swift and merciful end to animals that won't survive,' Jeff Stroebele of the Wildlife Service said from Anchorage this week. 'But I admit our timing was awful. We thought we were doing the humanitarian thing and suddenly - like Donner und Blitzen - Santa Claus comes crashing over the horizon.' Complaining that the exercise has cost his office more than dollars 100,000 (pounds 65,000), Mr Stroebele added with a tired sigh: 'Everybody thinks immediately about Rudolf and his red nose instead of an animal out there suffering.'
Nor is this the only wildlife controversy to involve Alaska. The state was forced on Tuesday to back down from plans to carry out a similar cull of grey wolves, endangered or extinct in most other US states, as a way to protect the populations of moose and caribou which attract hunters and therefore tourists' dollars.
The Wildlife Service went to lengths to soften local anger at the reindeer cull. It chartered a plane and flew back nearly 200 dressed carcasses and gave them to local villages on the mainland for meat. But that was abandoned when the aircraft went nose-down in the sand and broke its propeller.
Then, when the shooting was in full swing, a local doctor, Donald Olson, launched his own private airlift, hoping to get all the remaining animals off the island alive. He also made beach landings in his DC-3 Dakota and managed to corral 40 reindeer on board for three flights - saving 120 - before giving up.
Now the island has been submerged in the Arctic winter, and the Wildlife Service and the villages on the mainland coast are in a stand-off about what to do about the 200-odd animals left behind.
- 1 Students heading off to 'charity challenge' grounded at Gatwick after travel firm goes bust
- 2 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- 5 Like Jennifer Aniston, I am no less of a woman because I am childless
Ashya King missing: Police hunt five-year-old boy with brain tumour snatched from Southampton hospital by his parents
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
Californian drought is so severe it's 'causing the ground to move'
Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...
£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...
£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...
£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...