AR-News: Alaska approves aerial shooting of wolves

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Wed Nov 5 17:21:20 EST 2003

Alaska approves aerial shooting of wolves


ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska game officials on Tuesday approved the state's 
first program in more than 15 years to shoot wolves from aircraft, despite a 
campaign by opponents decrying the plan as inhumane.

The eradication program is planned for areas where declining moose 
populations have been blamed on wolf predation, around McGrath in the 
interior and large parts of the Nelchina basin east of Anchorage.

"We understand the importance of moose populations, particularly for 
subsistence reasons," Board of Game chairman Mike Fleagle said at a news 

The board's action is sure to stir emotions in and outside Alaska. On 
Monday, about 25 sign-waving wolf advocates protested a block from hotel 
where the board was meeting. They were accompanied by four canines dressed 
in mock bulletproof vests.

Some of the opponents returned Tuesday, when the panel decided the issue.

Karen Deatherage, with Defenders of Wildlife, and other opponents said no 
sound science backed the decision. Deatherage also said the board's action 
is a slap to Alaska voters, who twice in recent years have said "no" to 
aerial shooting of wolves.

"They've trampled on the voters' wishes and opened the door to the wholesale 
slaughter of hundreds of wolves," she said.

Deatherage said advocates plan a public awareness campaign to urge people to 
contact Gov. Frank Murkowski and let him know this is an "absolutely 
unacceptable treatment of Alaska's wildlife."

She said other national groups are considering a tourism boycott, a threat 
in the early 1990s that helped persuade then-Gov. Walter J. Hickel to call 
off the last planned lethal wolf-control program.

But two rural hunters thanked the board for its decision. "We really depend 
on moose and caribou ... and in the past year I've seen a great decline in 
the cow and calf populations," said Ken Johns, of Copper Center.

Wolf control has had a spotty history in the region. Over the years, 
bounties have been paid and wolves have been poisoned, trapped and shot from 
airplanes. In some areas, wolf numbers fell so low that moose and caribou 
flourished and then crashed because of over-browsing.

Support for widespread wolf control began to drop after statehood in 1959. 
Bounties were canceled and aerial sport hunting was banned in 1972. The 
state Department of Fish and Game continued its predator-control efforts 
until 1986. A planned aerial wolf-control plan in the early 1990s was killed 
off by threats of the tourism boycott.

In ballot measures in 1996 and 2000, Alaska voters essentially banned 
aircraft-assisted land-and-shoot wolf hunting. Regulations allowing state 
biologists to shoot wolves from the air for predator control remain on the 
books, but Murkowski has refused to let state employees do the work.

The state will use private citizens in their own aircraft to shoot the 
wolves in some target areas, under a law adopted by the Legislature last 

Under the plan, about 40 wolves will be shot from planes over a 1,700-square 
mile area near McGrath.

In the Nelchina region, wolves will be shot from the ground after being 
spotted by planes. Between 100 and 130 wolves are targeted in the 
7,800-square-mile region, said Matt Robus, director of Fish and Game's 
Division of Wildlife Conservation.

The McGrath effort will begin as soon as there's enough snow cover to see 
the animals and the Nelchina effort could begin by January, Robus said.

"We want to emphasize that these are predator control programs - not hunts - 
for the purpose of targeting prey until moose rebound to higher numbers," he 


On the Net:

Alaska Board of Game:

" my protest against the conduct of the world."
Isaac Bashevis Singer

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