Wolf Song of Alaska News

Lawsuit Seeks to End Alaska's Aerial Killing of Wolves, Bears

Environment News Service / August 29, 2006

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Two conservation groups have asked the State Superior Court to halt Alaska's aerial wolf killing and bear killing plans, saying they are based on faulty science and violate state law.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Defenders of Wildlife and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance asked the court to block the programs, which cover more than 40 million acres of Alaska's interior and which could result in the killing of more than 75 percent of the wolves in several areas.

"The Board of Game ignored well-established, solid science when they set up the aerial wolf killing and bear killing plans," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president, Defenders of Wildlife.

"The Board essentially went into this blindly, lacking accurate and up-to-date information on caribou and moose populations that would allow them to craft sustainable, science-based programs for management of all Alaska's game. The plan also flies in the face of basic fair chase hunting traditions," he said.

The lawsuit alleges that the Board of Game adopted regulations that are inconsistent with Alaska statutes governing game management. It says that the Board of Game failed to obtain accurate population estimates for caribou and moose so they could determine how many animals were available for hunting or "human harvest" as it is referred to in state law.

State law requires the Board of Game to consider this information before setting new population and harvest objectives and embarking upon any predator control program. The law also requires that any predator control program be part of a comprehensive game management plan which the Board of Game has failed to adopt.

"Alaska's aerial killing programs represent the worst in wildlife control practices," said John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. "They rely on decisions made by individuals who have no regard for sound science and the will of the public and who have no long-term vision for the management of Alaska's natural heritage."

Under the predator control implementation plans the Board has adopted, private individuals may obtain permits to hunt wolves using aircraft. Permittees may chase wolves to exhaustion using airplanes and then land and shoot them, or shoot them from the air.

The use of aircraft to kill wolves was banned by Alaskans in statewide ballot measures in 1996 and 2000, but the Alaska Legislature overturned those bans.

In the three years since Alaska has begun issuing permits to pilots and gunners to conduct aerial-based wolf killing more than 550 wolves have been killed. In 2006 alone, more than 150 wolves were killed.

The Board has expanded its predator control plans to include the reduction of bears in some game management units (GMUs). Many of the GMUs where the aerial gunning programs have been authorized are adjacent to federal lands such as the Denali Park and Preserve. The conservationists fear that these killing programs could affect predator populations living on a national park or wildlife refuge.

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