Anchorage, Alaska - The fate of the state's aerial predator-control program is back in the hands of an Anchorage judge.
Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason heard oral arguments Tuesday about whether the state Board of Game acted "capriciously and arbitrarily" in its decision to start aerial shooting of wolves in an effort to increase moose and caribou numbers.
Friends of Animals, a Connecticut-based animal rights group, and three local Alaskans argued that state biologists are using flawed population counts.
At issue is whether the program violates both state and federal laws banning aerial hunting.
State biologists have long defended their data, saying that in areas where wolf control is being practiced, more moose and game animals are surviving the winters.
"This far, it looks like we are seeing some success, that we view these programs as things that will need to be carried on over several years," said Grant Hilderbrand, regional supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "And so we'll continue to do so and monitor their effectiveness."
Dr. Paul Joslin wants the aerial hunts stopped. "When we only have an extremist element, basically, sitting there making the decisions and are not using sound science as is required, this is kind of what you have," he said.
The case is now in the hands of Judge Gleason, and she did not say when she expects to hand down a decision.