ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 12, 2008 (ENS) - The Alaska Board of Fish and Game has decided that about two dozen wolves from several packs on the southern Alaska Peninsula will be exterminated using aerial gunning to boost the caribou population.
The wolves have been killing newborn calves, said biologist Cathie Harms with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The herd had an estimated 10,000 animals in 1983, but now numbers about 600.
Harms said Fish and Game staffers will use a helicopter to locate and kill the wolves from the air starting this spring. She sais it is the first time since the mid-1980s that such an operation has been authorized.
A survey of the herd in 2006 discovered one calf per 100 cows, according to Fish and Game. That number decreased to 0.5 calves per 100 during a survey conducted last year, Harms said.
The department intends to give calves a chance to survive and restock the herd, which it says is important to subsistence hunters.
Far to the south in Darien, Connecticut, Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral today denounced the Alaska agency's approval of aerial wolf control.
"Alaskans have allowed their bureaucracy to be taken over by extremists - people who want to keep an air force to annihilate wolves and other natural predators," said Feral. "Alaska's bloody spectacles are a blight on the continent."
Priscilla Feral, whose advocacy group has sponsored wolf research in Alaska for 15 years, has successfully intervened in past killing plans. The group's latest challenge to Alaska's wolf control, in November 2006, awaits a judge's ruling.
Dr. Gordon Haber, a wildlife biologist based in Alaska, whose work is paid for by the Friends of Animals, notes that predation of caribou by other animals typically regulates itself whenever numbers of caribou drop.
Haber says that shooting would neither address any biological emergencies nor achieve anything necessary for human survival. Instead, he said, targeting one group of natural predators would tend to generate more predation by others such as bears.