McWilliams: Lifting the ban on predator control is animal cruelty

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

On March 21, 2017 the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 to lift the ban on predator control hunting practices on natural preserved lands and refuges in Alaska. Predator control hunting, specifically in Alaska, is hunting animals such as bears, wolves and coyotes. The vote allows extremely barbaric hunting tactics to be used on these animals and should be illegal due to animal cruelty.


The ban was originally enacted because of the unethical hunting tactics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that aerial gunning and live trapping were unfair towards the animals. The ban on predator control was also put in place because the ratio between predator and prey in Alaska was extremely uneven. There were too many deer, elk and caribou and not enough predators, so they conserved the predators in the refuges in Alaska, letting the ecosystem balance itself out naturally.

Lifting the ban allows hunters to shoot hibernating bears and their cubs. It allows hunters to kill denning wolves and coyotes along with their pups. It also allows hunters to shoot bears from planes and to live trap these predators, leaving them to suffer for days in neck snares that slowly strangle the animals to death. Not only is this extremely lazy hunting, it is animal cruelty. These hunting practices should not be legal.

I agree that lifting the ban has its benefits. Killing the predators would allow more deer, elk, moose and fish to thrive in the refuges. This would allow hunters to kill more game that they can eat or give to their families. It also makes the issue a state-controlled problem and no longer a federally controlled problem, which is good because the ban only pertains to Alaska and its preserved lands.

However, allowing practices such as leghold traps and neck snares is extremely cruel towards the animal. Live trapping by using steel-jawed leghold traps can lead to the animal suffering for days. Neck snares entangle the animal and can slowly strangle them to death.

Hunters are also able to lure bears from their dens during hibernation so that they can have a cleaner shot. Meanwhile, bear cubs starve because their mothers have been killed in a time when they need her most. It also allows the hunters to kill wolf and coyote pups and their mothers during denning season. This practice causes baby animals to suffer before they are able to fend for themselves.

Lifting the ban just because the predator versus prey ratio is normal is not humane. There are ways that hunters could hunt predators without using such unprincipled tactics. The ban on predator control could have been lifted while keeping it illegal to shoot aerially, to practice live trapping and to still preserve the animals during hibernation and denning seasons. The state could issue more hunting licenses when the animals aren’t hibernating and denning, so hunting is still fair and sportsmanlike.

These hunting tactics are not fair-chase hunting and they aren’t sportsmanlike hunting. They are lazy hunting and, more importantly, they are animal cruelty.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at and online at @LetaMcWilliams