Help protect the imperiled Archipelago wolf!‏


A rare and dramatically declining gray wolf subspecies in Alaska will face critical threats from hunting this year unless we act immediately.

The population of Archipelago wolves found on Prince of Wales Island, a remote island in southeast Alaska, has plummeted in recent years due to unsustainable old-growth logging and hunting. Despite this population crash, the federal government plans to allow subsistence hunting – a decision that may push the population to the edge of extinction.

The subsistence hunting season for Archipelago wolves on Prince of Wales Island will open on September 1st unless the Federal Subsistence Board cancels the hunt.

On Prince of Wales Island, roads built for old-growth logging are making it easier for hunters, trappers, and poachers to kill Archipelago wolves at an unsustainable rate. The Prince of Wales Island wolf population is now very low, perhaps only a few tens of wolves – down from an estimated 250 to 350 in the mid-1990s.

The start of hunting is just a few days away and could serve as a fatal blow to these embattled wolves.

Demand that the hunting of these rare wolves be stopped!

copyrighted wolf in water

Alaska big-game hunting “safe” from airline trophy bans

August 6, 2015 – 12:06am

The amount of revenue generated by resident and non-resident hunting activities and their support systems means big game is a big deal for Alaska.  James Brooks | The Juneau Empire

James Brooks | The Juneau Empire
The amount of revenue generated by resident and non-resident hunting activities and their support systems means big game is a big deal for Alaska.


It has been more than a month since an American Dentist killed Cecil the lion, Zimbabwe’s most famous feline, but public uproar regarding the lion’s death is certainly still alive.

On Monday, three major U.S. airlines added their names to a growing list of carriers limiting, and in some cases eliminating altogether, the transport of hunting trophies.

“Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight,” Delta announced in a press release Monday. United Airlines and American Airlines released similar statements the same day, joining several other international carriers — some of whom started banning hunting trophies as early as April.

Alaska Airlines has no intention to implement any such ban. The Seattle-based company has made clear that it will continue allowing the transport of hunting trophies as long as they meet the airline’s existing guidelines.

“Our existing policy works well for the people in the Lower 48 and in Alaska, and we’re not making any policy changes,” said Bobbie Egan, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines.

Though most carriers’ hunting-trophy bans primarily target trophies taken in Africa, Delta went on to say that it “will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies,” potentially impacting trophy hunting in Alaska. Delta is engaged in tight competition with Alaska Airlines for service to and from the 49th state, having added year-round service to Fairbanks, Juneau and several other communities in recent years.

Nonetheless, many of Alaska’s top sport-hunting officials are not worried that these bans will hurt the state’s robust big-game hunting industry, which drew in $3.9 million from hunting-tag fees in 2014.

Since the 1960s, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has awarded and sold thousands of hunting tags annually to Outside visitors seeking to hunt the biggest state’s biggest game. Caribou, moose, black bears and grizzly bears are the animals most sought after by out-of-state sport hunters.

None of the major U.S. airlines banning hunting trophies have added these animals to their no-fly lists and bison, available in Alaska, are hunted in extremely small numbers. However, even if the airlines banned all shipments, the Alaskan big-game hunting industry likely wouldn’t be impacted, said Kelly Vrem, chair of the Alaska Big Game Commercial Services Board.

Vrem has been a guiding big-game hunts for more than four decades and hunting even longer. The way he sees it, the bans are hardly more than a publicity stunt by airlines.

“This is kind of grandstanding on the airlines’ part,” Vrem said. “It’s is nothing but an opportunity to get some free advertising.”

Most out-of-state hunters who are coming to Alaska and taking trophies home are not transporting them on commercial airlines, he said. Instead, these hunters use regular freight companies or specialty expeditors to ship their trophies home, and that has been the case here for more than 20 years.

“For a fair amount of time now, it has really been impractical to ship trophies by air,” Vrem said. “It was a hassle for them, and it was a hassle for us, too. It was just a nuisance for everyone.”

Such a nuisance, in fact, that Vrem’s business, Kelly Vrem’s Rough and Ready Guide Service, officially changed its policy regarding shipment of trophies in 1993 to recommend against using commercial airlines for shipping.

The airlines didn’t like dealing with trophies because they are typically large and heavy, he said. They take up a lot of space, and can be damaging to other luggage. If packaged improperly, for example, caribou horns are sharp enough to puncture soft luggage stacked on top of them, he said.

Back then, Vrem never had a problem with the airlines. It was simply easier for both parties if hunters shipped their trophies using freight services. However, now Vrem said he plans to avoid flying with any airlines imposing hunting-trophy bans, which he sees as useless if not insulting. He’s not the only one.

Thor Stacey, a hunting guide and member of the Alaska Professional Hunters Association, said the hunting trophy bans are useless in protecting animals and offensive to hunters.

“We feel, in a way, very picked on,” Stacey said. “It’s akin to the person who doesn’t want to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples who are getting married.”

Stacey said animals would be better protected if these airlines would impose a tariff on the transport of trophies rather than a ban. The extra money raised by the tariff could then be put toward habitat protection and conservation, he said. “Now that would be something we could understand.”

Delta and United did not respond to the Empire by press time. American issued the following statement, “Even though we do not serve the continent of Africa, we will no longer transport buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion or rhinoceros trophies.”

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at or at 523-2279.

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Judge fines Greenpeace as Shell ship retreats from Ore. protest

Judge fines Greenpeace as Shell ship retreats from Ore. protest

Royal Dutch Shell PLC icebreaker Fennica heads upriver in Portland, Ore., Thursday, July 30, 2015.

Groups want hunting season suspended for rare Alaska wolves

— Six conservation organizations are asking state and federal authorities to stop hunting and trapping seasons for Alexander Archipelago wolves, a southeast Alaska species that den in the root systems of large trees.

Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the wolves as endangered in August 2011.

The groups say large-scale logging fragments forests and reduces carrying capacity for Sitka black-tailed deer, the prey of the wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September agreed to decide by late 2015 whether the wolves warrant endangered species protection.

Rebecca Noblin of the Center for Biological Diversity says without hunting and trapping suspensions, wolves on Prince of Wales Island will be gone before the government can decide whether they need endangered species protection

Group ups reward for information on June sea lion killings

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

— A Cordova group has raised the government reward offered for information on those responsible for killing at least half a dozen Steller sea lions near the fishing community last month.

KTUU-TV reports ( ) that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday the reward is now $7,500 after Cordova District Fisherman United added $5,000 to NOAA’s original $2,500 reward for help solving the case of the sea lions.

The sea lions were found on a Cordova-area beach June 1. NOAA officials say biologists examined the dead animals and determined they were intentionally killed.

The western United States population of Steller sea lions is protected under the Endangered Species Act, with harassing, harming or killing them banned except in extremely limited situations.

Alaska’s Seal Hunt Lasted Only a Few Days Because It’s So Hot

By Julia O’Malley

July 01, 2015

KOTZEBUE, Alaska-In this Far North village, no animal provides more protein
to fill freezers than the bearded seal. A single seal can supply hundreds of
pounds of meat, enough to feed a large, extended family for a winter.

For generations, every late June and early July, native hunters like Ross
Schaeffer and his niece Karmen Schaeffer Monigold have motored through the
broken sea ice of Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska, looking for seals
basking on frosty rafts. But this year, temperatures were close to 70
degrees, there was no ice in sight, and the seals had already migrated

This seal-hunting season was the shortest in memory, lasting less than a
week, compared with the usual three weeks.

Schaeffer and Monigold did manage to get a few animals, but the conditions
were nothing like Schaeffer, 68, had seen before. By the third week in June,
when Monigold would usually be dressed for cold, she drove out to check on
her drying seal hide wearing flip-flops and shorts.

“Every year we’ve gone out, it’s getting harder and harder because the ice
is so rotten by the time it’s time to go hunting that the seals are hard to
find,” Monigold says.

Pictures of ice melting in Kotzebue, Alaska from a helicopter

The amount of ice near Kotzebue, Alaska, changed dramatically between May,
2015, (on the left) and June (on the right.) This May was the warmest on
record in Kotzebue.

Photographs by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

In Kotzebue, as temperatures and ice become increasingly unpredictable,
hunters worry their children and grandchildren will no longer be able to
participate in the traditional seal hunt. Kotzebue is among the largest of
roughly 40 Alaska Native communities on the coast between Bristol Bay and
Kaktovik that rely on bearded seal.



Kotzebue’s changing seal season is part of another chapter of Alaska’s
accelerated climate change story, which is threatening the food, economics,
and culture of Native communities.

The longtime patterns of many animals are changing. For example, the timing
of caribou migration
/caribou_trails_2014.pdf> has been later, which scientists say may be linked
to warmer temperatures. And in the Bering Sea, wild weather and unusual sea
ice patterns have hampered
ring_walrus_hunting_success_2013.pdf> walrus hunting, causing serious food
shortages in some villages.

An Alaska Hotspot

The winter of 2014 was the warmest ever measured
D-alaska> across Alaska, and this summer has so far followed a similar
pattern, according to the National Weather Service, with hot, dry conditions
fueling hundreds of wildfires. It was the warmest May ever recorded in
Kotzebue– 8 degrees warmer than usual.

“It started raining, and it rained every night for about four or five
nights. It rained hard. That rain is so warm it just seeps right through the
ice and the ice pops up and it’s all rotten already,” says Schaeffer, who
has been hunting for about 60 years. “It’s not like it used to be.”

Picture of Ross Schaeffer

Ross Schaeffer, 68, who has been participating in subsistence hunts since he
was a child, says the ice conditions In Kotzebue Sound last month were
unlike any he has ever seen before. “It’s not like it used to be,” he says.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Picture of children in Alaska swimming

Children swam in the sea on a warm day in June in Kotzebue, Alaska.
Temperatures hit as high as 80 degrees.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Kotzebue in particular is a hot spot in the state. Six of the ten warmest
winters in the village on record have occurred since 2000. Climatologists
say the village is likely to have more unusual heat this summer and into the

Above-average sea surface temperatures contributed to Alaska’s abnormally
warm winter when increased southerly winds flowed over the ocean and spread
inland. Next winter could be cooler, but over the long term, experts say
that warmer and wetter weather could become more common.

“The decades-long trend seems pretty clear: less and less sea ice,” says
Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the National Weather
Service in Alaska.

Ice coverage in Kotzebue Sound has been shrinking steadily since the 1950s,
with acceleration in recent years.

Related Content



1. Watch A Seal Hunt

“There is open water in the Chukchi Sea, almost up to Barrow now, which is
remarkably early,” Thoman says.

Seals Follow the Ice

Bearded seals, called ugruk in the Inupiaq language, migrate up and down
Alaska’s northwest coast, from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi and Beaufort
seas, following the ice as it advances in winter and retreats in summer,
says Peter Boveng, polar ecosystems program leader at NOAA’s Alaska
Fisheries Science Center.

Scientists estimate there are roughly 300,000 bearded seals in the Bering
Sea breeding population and an unknown number of others that breed in the
Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska, he says. As the sea ice patterns
change, there could be changes in the places where the animals spend time,
he says.

During Kotzebue’s traditional hunting season in late June, bearded seals are
hauling out on ice. They depend on the ice to give them platforms for
basking, he says, which raises their skin temperature and stimulates hair
growth to fill out their coats. That’s what complicated the hunting; seals
will only stay in the waters near Kotzebue as long as the ice conditions are

Picture of a child holding a rope attached to a dead walrus in Alaska

Inupiat families from Barrow, Alaska, hunted for walrus instead of bearded
seal when melted sea ice ended the seal hunt abnormally early in June.
Walrus this close to town during this time of year is rare. The hunters
bring their catch to stable sea ice to butcher it and then haul it back to
town by boat.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

“If the animals are really in the peak of their molt, they will probably
want to stay with the ice. And if the ice goes out earlier in Kotzebue
Sound, Kotzebue really could see be a big decline in the number of animals
visiting that area on their way north,” Boveng says.

There is no evidence so far that the changes in the ice patterns are harming
seals. However, if they can’t find ice of the quality they need, scientists
say they might not be able to grow adequate coats, which protect their skin
from abrasions and infections, Boveng says. (Read about weird changes in
other ocean life linked to global warming.
irds-climate-warming-drought/> )

In 2011, several species of ice-dependent Alaska seals, including bearded
seals, were part of an unusual die-off
<> .
Animals turned up dead or sick with abnormal coats, among other symptoms, he
says. It is unclear whether there was a link between the event and climate
change, however.

There was once a time when Kotzebue relied on beluga whales for much of its
subsistence, says Alex Whiting, an environmental specialist for the Native
Village of Kotzebue. But then, in the 1980s, many belugas stopped coming
into the sound for reasons not entirely understood. Hunters are adaptable,
he says, and will find ways to get their seals, even if the animal patterns

Picture of a person cutting seal meat in Alaska

A woman prepared bearded seal for an annual feast in Point Hope, Alaska.

Nutritious and Spiritual6-4Hansens-trophy-goat

Pound for pound, caribou is the most important wild food source in Kotzebue,
followed closely by bearded seal, a nutritious, lean protein rich in omega

“Large adult bearded seals in particular provide singular types of meat and
oil products that are not replaceable,” Whiting says. “If the window to
harvest them is missed, it will be another year before the opportunity
arises again.”

Monigold says her main concern with the changing seal season is spiritual.
Taking children in the village to hunt instills in them a sense of purpose
and connects them to culture. When they take a bearded seal, for example,
she teaches her sons to put fresh water in the mouth to release the spirit
into the ocean, a gesture meant to bring more seals back the next year.
Sharing the meat teaches them respect and gives confidence.

Picture of people walking after returning from a seal hunt in Alaska

Because of melting sea ice, Inupiat men and boys from Barrow, Alaska,
returned to town after hunting bearded seal. The season was disappointing:
It ended early in June as the seals migrated north in search of ice.

Photograph by Katie Orlinsky, National Geographic

Schaeffer worries that if the warming trend continues, his grandchildren
will eventually lose the opportunity to hunt bearded seals in the sound. His
grandparents traveled by dogsled and relied entirely on food they caught and
gathered but so many of their traditions have been lost in a relatively
short time. Technology was the first agent of change; now it’s climate.

Seal is a soul food for indigenous Alaskans. When Monigold goes without it
and other native foods while traveling, she feels listless and looks forward
to a meal at home.

“As soon as I take a bite, it’s like all of a sudden I’m me again,” she

This reporting was supported by a grant from the
<> Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


Alaska’s Current Off-the-Charts Wildfire Situation

Alaskans can take a peek out the window this week to catch a glimpse of climate change. It seems the entire state is on fire, and those fires are burning up land at a pace far beyond that of 2004, the previous record-setting year.

Here are the stats:

  • Wildfires in Alaska have burned more than 1.25 million acres so far this year. That’s an area 32 times the size of Washington, D.C.
  • 3,343 firefighters are currently working in Alaska. That’s one-third of all the wildland firefighters currently tasked in the United States.
  • 85 percent of the area burned nationwide this year by wildfire has been in Alaska.

The state of Alaska is at its highest level of alert. Its Tuesday wildfire situation report was 65 pages long. And the problem is getting worse: Wildfires now burn five times more acreage each year in our northernmost state than they did in 1943.




5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic

Published: Jun 30, 2015 

5 activists detained as Shell drill ship heads for Arctic
“Kayaktivists” gather in Everett to protest oil drilling in the Arctic.
EVERETT, Wash. – Police detained five so called “kayaktivists” Tuesday who tried to slow down Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling ship Noble Discoverer as it left for the Arctic Ocean.

In all, police say 20 protesters were in the water as the ship departed Everett on its way to Alaska at about 4 a.m., guarded by two Coast Guard vessels.

Coast Guard personnel brought the activists to shore and issued citations for violating the safety zone around the drill ship. All were later released.

The protesters oppose Shell’s plans to drill for undersea oil in the Arctic. Groups of people from Oregon, Washington and Alaska have been holding a vigil on the waterfront since last Wednesday.

Shell’s drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, left Seattle earlier this month. Two dozen protesters were cited when they tried to block that rig from leaving Seattle.

Starting next month, Shell proposes to drill up to four exploration wells over two years in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s coast.