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Alaska's Aerial Wolf Hunting Program May Include the Use of Helicopters

Andrea Gusty / KTVA-TV / March 9, 2007

http://www.ktva.com/topstory/ci_5400436

The aerial wolf hunting program has been a controversial form of predator control for years. Now the state is considering something even more controversial: the use of helicopters.


The previous administration banned helicopters form the aerial program. Now the board is trying to figure out if Palin will allow a program of this nature. The predator control program was created to reduce the numbers of wolves and allow the numbers of moose and caribou to increase. But this year, Mother Nature has made it hard for the program volunteers to shoot the number of wolves they need to. Now the Board of Game is asking the governor to consider bringing in helicopters.

This winter's poor weather conditions and high fuel costs have made it hard to kill enough wolves to make the program successful. That's why the State Fish and Game Board is now looking to helicopters.

"If you are going to shoot something from the air, a helicopter is much more effective. It's a slower, you have a more stable platform. And instead of zooming by at 40 miles per hour, you are essentially hovering, or very close to it," said Bruce Bartley of the Department of Fish and Game.

This winter, less than 40 wolves have been killed, which according to biologists, just isn't enough. That's why the board is now asking Governor Palin if she would authorize using helicopters to shoot wolves from the air. That's not sitting well with animal rights activists, who say using helicopters will be like shooting fish in a barrel.

"If Governor Palin steps in to authorize it, she will be using her powers to benefit just a few Alaskans against the will of the majority of Alaskans," said Dorothy Keeler who is against the helo wolf hunt.

Whether they like the program or not, Fish and Game says it's working; more and more moose are surviving the winter. But biologists say the efforts of the last few years will be for nothing if the wolf numbers aren't maintained.

"Let's face it, the death of one animal is a slaughter. This is not hunting, this is not trapping, this is predator control. And there is no way to put a pretty face on it," said Bartley.

"It's a slaughter. It can't be justified by science. It can't be justified by ethics. In fact, the department's own research said it's not the cause of the moose decline and it will do nothing to help, unless it is continued forever and forever, is a long time," said Keeler.

While it's clear this debate is heated, it's not clear when and if this controversy will ever have an outcome.

This idea is in the very early stages and the board is simply asking Governor Palin if it could be a possibility. If this year's quota is not met using planes, then advocates are hoping the governor would consider using helicopters, if it came down to it.

Now keep in mind, the current aerial predator program uses volunteers. If helicopters were used, it would be a completely state-funded and operated program. Any decision either way is a long way off.

To contact Andrea, call 907-273-3186.

 

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