In the past, wolves have been successfully reintroduced to national parks to preserve the biodiversity of the land and reinvigorate wild populations. What we’ve found, however, is that wolves do not translate to tourist dollars. People don’t want to encounter wolves in the parks. They want to encounter affable, fluffy labradoodles.
Last year, the National Parks Service initiated the “Labradoodle Integration Project” in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska, the least-visited national park in America.
The idea was first thought up by NPS intern Lindsay Burke, who visited the park with her labradoodle, Benjamin. Lindsay’s social media takeover gained the park an additional twenty-seven followers, most of whom were from her sorority. It seems something got lost in the chain of command, and Lindsay’s email suggestion of more labradoodles in the park was misinterpreted by the head of the department as an order of mass labradoodle release. Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars were earmarked for the purchase of labradoodles from New England’s top breeders.
Before release, the dogs were outfitted with L. L. Bean Reversible Field Coats for Dogs and Ruffwear Summit Trex dog boots. The NPS felt that these fancy outfits, along with nearly thirty years of evolution in suburban America, would help the doodles quickly adapt to life in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. One special doodle, Buster, was equipped with a GoPro camera, which he was supposed to use to document the adventure. However, Buster immediately chewed apart the weather-proof casing, and the livestream never debuted.
As any labradoodle lover knows, our furry friends don’t shed! This is great for the home, but may have zero benefit in the wild. In place of shedding, labradoodles require almost constant grooming. Once per month, furloughed park rangers, fast-tracked through the NPS Labradoodle Grooming Program, are now flown into the park to groom the dogs. The groomers have sustained some injuries as a result of the final “attach pink bows to ears” step of the grooming, as wild labradoodles do not tolerate this step as well as their ancestral cousins, who thrived in the great rooms and SUVs of the mid-to-late 2010s.
Since Gates of the Arctic is incredibly difficult to access (it sits north of the Arctic Circle and contains no roads or trails), the Doodle Drop team was delighted to learn of an airstrip in the middle of the vast wilderness, perfect for landing the doodles. What the team did not expect was the chaos that ensued at the village of Anaktuvuk Pass, which the airstrip serves. The Nunamiut Iñupiat people who inhabit the village were shocked to see the hordes of doodles rush out from the NPS cargo plane, bows in their ears, leashes flying in the wind. It was perhaps here that everything went wrong. About half of the doodles wandered off into the wild, chasing after animals much larger and more dangerous. The other half have overrun Anaktuvuk Pass. Their preference for sunbathing on the airstrip has made it almost impossible to run supplies into the town.
At this point the long-term status of the project is unknown. In addition to blocking all goods and services to the Nunamiut village, the doodles have created some chaos within native moose populations by pack-hunting. The pack hunts are never successful because labradoodles are easily distracted and tend to be hampered by hip dysplasia, but the moose are now extremely annoyed, and annoyed moose are dangerous moose.
Phase Two of the project aims to repair relations with the Nunamiut by monetizing a livestream of GoPro footage captured by doodles who are not Buster. Additionally, the Parks Service will gift each village child above the age of seven with a wild labradoodle pup to raise as a pet (release-of-liability waivers required). A behavior modification program is being implemented to discourage the doodles from tangling with local moose.
Buster has continued to be a problem and will be re-homed with the Cornwallis family in Fairfield, Connecticut, as soon as we’re able to clear the airstrip of sleeping labradoodles and land a plane to evacuate him.