Alaska is a funny sort of place and has some characters running around. Sometimes it makes for some unusual fellow travelers, and so it was for Ms P's wolf man, but let me back up a minute and lead you down the path I followed.
Recently I read of a new book by some woman and a wolf researcher that has been dead for a few years. Now I know scientists can sometimes shade the truth but rising from the dead is quite a stretch. Turns out a creative writing teacher was re assembling some notes by the researcher and assembled them in a book hoping to probably cash in on a little name recognition and some cute photos.
Not bad if you ask me. Not many can make the cost of a Starbucks coffee by writing. Conceiving of a book guaranteed to sell quite a few tens of thousands isn't bad at all.
I'd heard the name of the wolf researcher before, and I remember some photos of him seemingly frolicking with wolves, a kind of unprofessional attachment to the species as I remember. I also read a long article, maybe not to completion.
I googled and found these.
What??? was my first thought? or less printable WTF!!!!?????
Ok, I've followed enough pro wolf types to know they are often far past the eccentric stage, but a Sarah Palin supporter? And without an explanation? Just a mention. Appetite wheted I started digging and eventually the rough outlines of a character emerged, if not an explanation.
No one I could find, would out and out say, what it was about Haber's conservatism that was so awkward. No doubt if it was anything like his views on other things in life he was an extremist of one sort or another. Priscilla Feral (no that really is her name), director and sole head honcho forever of Friends of Animals was Haber's sole source of funding. Ms Feral called him a "social conservative" end of quote. What the heck that is supposed to mean I don't know. Pilot friends of his say they simply did not discuss politics with him.
If you don't remember, Palin's husband Tod, and maybe Palin herself were aligned and even belonged to some pretty weird secessionist type group. Alaska can be strange. I mean what type of politics is too out there to even mention in Alaska? Anti gay? Racist? Why say social conservative and not fiscal? The only thing that reportedly bothered him about Palin was her spending on clothes as a VP candidate.
The aerial gunning he considered poor guidance from Alaska's wildlife people, not Sarah Palin's doing.
Haber is reported to have gained favor with a series of right wing Republicans beginning with Rogers Morton. Morton was active in Nixon's 68 campaign for president, then Chairman of the RNC, then Sec of Int.(Alaska Pipeline), followed by Sec of Commerce for Ford. A good buddy to have. Haber was the type of eccentric that gets booted out of National Parks eventually, his friends in high places served him well. Reportedly there were attempts to revoke his permit to study there but none successful. Comparisons are made to Timothy Treadwell that bear guy that got eaten.
Eventually from the enigma that was Haber's politics I drifted on into what the heck was he doing with wolves. Watching them mostly. for days and years on end. One pack in particular. In many ways he was the first of what is a genre. The obsessed wolf advocate. Habler was more focused on the social interactions of the wolf pack he observed than his own.
Scientifically I'm not qualified to make judgments. I've read some on his web site and he seems normal enough. http://www.alaskawolves.org/ The only published scientific paper I can find reference to is his doctoral dissertation which is supposed to be very very long and also generated lots of criticism from fellow wolf researchers and academics. That's not to say his line of research was wrong. Many people work on ideas outside the mainstream that later become widely accepted. Haber's ideas are still awaiting anyone to pursue them.
Habler seemed to think wolves communicate and pass on learned techniques of hunting to future generations and lived not just in packs but what he called "societies" a term usually reserved for things like large nation states of humans. I'm quite sure wolves don't have a literary tradition or art scene. Haber didn't cross the line into unprofessional attachment he arrived over the line before he'd begun.
Haber spent a lot of time watching and trying to figure out what wolves were thinking, which is not so radical an idea these days. Many believe wildlife think. One of the more noted scientists to figure out thoughts and behaviour of wildlife, Valerius Geist, wrote or was the source of much of the Wiki entry on why, how, and under what conditions wolves prey on humans. wolf attacks on humans wiki Geist also wrote a lot of books and enjoyed widespread recognition from scientists worldwide, focusing on ungulates. You have to wonder if with a little guidance Haber could have been remembered as a great scientist
One of the better pieces on the man and his controversy was written by senior editor of Backpacker Tracy Ross. Tracy had a background as a backcountry Ranger at Denali National Park and wrote a heck of a well researched and in depth article. I'd recommend reading the top link first, it's her article. The second link is her interview describing the making of the article. I'd probably guess that Tracy is pro wolf, but then so am I. What I mean is Tracy was familiar with all the nuances of the wolf debate yet did a bang up job as a professional journalist to bring both characters in her story to light. I can't remember as honest a piece of journalism from any source on the subject. In the land of the blind the one eyed is king maybe.
I really wish we still had money to pay people like Tracy to write.