Gordon Haber was tracking a wolf pack he had known for over 40 years when his plane crashed on a remote stretch of the Toklat river in Denali national park, Alaska, last October.
The fatal accident silenced one of the most outspoken and controversial advocates for wolf protection. Haber, an independent biologist, had spent a lifetime studying the behaviour and ecology of wolves and his passion for the animals was obvious.
“I am still in awe of what I see out there,” he wrote on his website. “Wolves enliven the northern mountains, forests, and tundra like no other creature, helping to enrich our stay on the planet simply by their presence as other highly advanced societies in our midst.”
His opposition to hunting was equally intense. He excoriated the “heavy government-sanctioned killing” and “Mengele-like experiments” with wolf sterilisation in Alaska, which, as he saw it, threaten to transform the very nature of the wolf.
And he did not pull his punches when identifying the enemy.
“Perhaps worst of all, these problems originate primarily from biologists,” he wrote on his website, referring to the fact that many wildlife managers work on the assumption that wolves can withstand heavy culling because they breed quickly.
In Alaska, up to 50 per cent of wolves are shot or trapped every year, with little effect on their numbers.
But Haber argued that by focusing on population size, the establishment has ignored the fact that the hunting of wolves warps their social structure, ripping apart the family ties and traditions