FAIRBANKS -- The state has been ordered to pay attorney fees for an animal rights group over a lawsuit that temporarily halted Alaska's aerial wolf-control program.
The state must pay $95,000 in attorney fees to Connecticut-based Friends of Animals, according to a decision by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason last week.
Friends of Animals was entitled to a full reimbursement because it had no financial incentives in filing the suit, said Kevin Saxby with the Department of Law.
The animal rights group filed a lawsuit in 2003 to halt the program, which is overseen by the state's Game Board.
A ruling by Gleason in January halted the program for 10 days. It was reinstated after the Game Board adopted emergency regulations that made the population control program conform to state law.
A follow-up attempt by Friends of Animals to halt the program was denied and the group's appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court was unsuccessful.
The state has about a month to appeal the decision and officials are mulling over that possibility, said Kevin Saxby with the Department of Law.
"We're looking at our options," said Saxby, who serves as legal adviser to the Alaska Board of Game. "We haven't made any decision."
In the past four years, more than 550 wolves in five parts of the state have been shot and killed as part of the state's predator-control program to increase the number of moose and caribou for hunters.
Friends of Animals has been trying to shut down the program for the past 13 years because the science supporting it is "rubbish," according to FOA executive director Priscilla Feral.
Feral said the money from the state will help fund another suit that it filed in November to stop the aerial shooting of wolves.