Opponents Howl Over Alaska’s Aerial Wolf Killing Plan
In another attempt to derail Alaska’s aerial wolf killing plan, Defenders of Wildlife submitted a petition to Interior Secretary Gale Norton last month requesting that she issue regulations clarifying that the Federal Airborne Hunting Act does not allow the use of aircraft to kill wolves for the purpose of boosting game populations.
The Alaska plan allows the shooting of wolves either directly from airplanes or after chasing the animals to the point of exhaustion and then landing the aircraft to kill them on foot.
The Alaska Board of Game approved the plan last November and approved its first round of permits last month. Some 42 wolves have already been killed and the plan calls for up to 140 wolves to be killed by the end of April.
Alaskan state officials contend the plan is needed to boost moose populations for hunters, but that is a violation of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act, according to Joel Bennett of Defenders of Wildlife Alaska.
The 1971 law was enacted to curtail the airborne hunting of wolves in Alaska, said Bennett who contends that clearly demonstrates that killing predators to increase game populations is illegal under the Act.
The limited exception written in the statute is only for persons operating under the authority of a state “to administer or protect or aid in the administration or protection of land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life or crops.”
“The act clearly does not allow killing wolves to boost prey populations or for sport hunting,” Bennett said. “We believe that the Alaska aerial wolf control program is therefore illegal and should be halted immediately.”
Alaska is home to the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the United States; scientists estimate some 7,000 to 9,000 wolves roam the state.
But unlike wolves in the lower 48 states, wolves in Alaska are not afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act, and wolf hunting is allowed in 95 percent of the state.
The approval of the aerial wolf killing plan came despite the fact that Alaskans have voted twice – in 1996 and 2000 – to ban the practice in statewide referenda.
In response, the conservation group Friends of Animals has set up 70 “Howl-Ins” during the past two months across the country in protest of the aerial killing and to rally support for a travel ban until the wolf policy is changed.
The organization says the howl-ins have rallied all types of individuals throughout the United States and Canada, all sending the message to Alaska officials that “wolf-killing is a national disgrace, and tourism to Alaska will be boycotted until it ends.”
Provided by theEnvironmental News Service.