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Fox Hunting in Alaska

written by: Matt Schelke•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 12/23/2008

Fox hunting, banned in many countries across the globe, is thriving in Alaska. Find out about the debate over this controversial issue.

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    On a field of Alaskan permafrost, all is quiet. The wind softly floats through the barren meadow, and a buteo soars overhead. The foothills in the distance look like giant sleeping men, their bellies peaked in the cool air.

    Suddenly, out of a nearby stand of trees darts a fox. A minute later, a pack of dogs sprints after him, going in for the kill. In three minutes, it’s all over.

    Fox hunting, a sport banned in many countries across the globe, is thriving in the Alaskan countryside. The sport originated in the U.K., where landlords would go out with packs of dogs and track the red foxes scattered across the countryside. In 2004, the sport was banned in the UK, as many animal rights activists saw it as cruel behavior towards the foxes.

    In Alaska, opinion is quite different. Fox hunting is as acceptable as grizzly hunting or caribou hunting, and is practiced by hunters across the state. While some use the traditional dog packs, many just use rifles. In Alaska, foxes are seen as pests and unwanted predators, thus hunting is thought to be beneficial. However, more and more activists are claiming that fox hunting is a brutal and unnecessary sport.

    One of the major targets of anti-hunting groups is ariel hunting. During an ariel hunt, a pilot and a gunner track a fox using a low-flying aircraft. Either the gunner shoots the fox from the air, or the plane chases the fox until the fox is exhausted. The plane then lands and the gunner shoots the fox from the ground.

    While hunting does reduce fox populations, it is not devastating to them. Many Alaskans see fox hunting as part of Alaskan culture; banning hunting, thus, eliminates a part of the Alaskan heritage.

    However, hunters aren’t the only threat to foxes in Alaska. Every season, trappers roam across the state and set ingenious snares for foxes. The foxes’ intelligence makes trapping them extremely difficult; only the most well-designed traps are successful.

    While more and more Alaskans are protesting fox hunting and trapping, the issue will likely never be resolved. The arguments for predator control and Alaskan heritage are just too strong. In Britain, fox hunting was easy because the animals were confined to small manors. In Alaska, the foxes have hundreds of thousands of square miles to, run, jump, and hide in.