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Alaska's Aerial Wolf-Control Program is Off to a Slow Start
Shoot: 20 animals have been killed; 400 is target, Fish and Game says
The Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / January 12, 2006

FAIRBANKS -- Pilot-hunter teams have killed 20 wolves this winter, far short of the state's goal of 400 in its aerial wolf-control program.

Bad weather, high fuel prices and short days are apparently causing the low numbers.

"You've got the holidays, the short days; throw bad weather on top of that and it's no surprise," said Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

More than 100 permits have been issued to private pilot-gunner teams to shoot wolves from the air or to land and shoot them in five locations where wildlife populations have been identified as important for human consumption.

Nine wolves have been shot from Game Management Unit 13 along the Denali Highway, six in Units 12 and 20 near Tok, and five in Unit 16 west of Anchorage. No wolves had been shot in Unit 19A in the central Kuskokwim River region or in Unit 19D east near McGrath.

It hasn't snowed recently in Southcentral or the Interior and a warm spell before that turned much of the ground to ice, making it almost impossible to detect fresh wolf tracks, Bartley said.

"In past years (pilots) may have gone out and looked," Bartley said. "The price of fuel being what it is ... now they're not going to go unless there's a pretty good chance" they will find wolves.

Over the past three years, private teams have taken more than 400 wolves.

This season's harvest should pick up in another month or two with longer daylight hours, possibly more snow and friskier wolves, Bartley said.

"They'll start moving more in February as the breeding season comes on," he said.

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