Fairbanks, Alaska - Aerial hunters have claimed the first wolf kills of the season as Alaska officials renew predator-control efforts to boost moose and caribou populations.
Two wolves were killed in the past week near McGrath and two in the Nelchina Basin when pilot-gunner teams took to the skies with permits supplied by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game earlier this month.
Those are two of the five regions the state Board of Game has designated for aerial wolf control this winter. Three other areas - west of Anchorage, on the central Kuskokwim River and near Tok - were added to the list earlier this year.
The state wants more than 500 wolves in the five areas killed this winter.
Almost three dozen permits have been issued for the area west of Anchorage. Those hunters can take to the air beginning Wednesday, according to Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley.
After being chased around by hunters in airplanes last winter, the McGrath and Nelchina wolves will probably be harder to track down, state game managers said.
"The wolves we've got left are a lot smarter," Bartley said.
The state's aggressive stance against predators has drawn protests from wildlife advocacy groups such as Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals and Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife.
Friends of Animals is once again organizing a tourism boycott of Alaska by organizing "howl-in" demonstrations in a more than a two dozen cities in the Lower 48.