ALASKA - "The recent news that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game illegally killed 14 wolf pups as part of their efforts to boost caribou numbers and that they intentionally excluded this information from a June 30 press release only further diminishes the public's faith and trust in the department's ability to properly manage wolves and bears and follow the law.
"This is the first time in more than 20 years that department biologists shot and killed wolves from the air and the first time that it has killed pups in their den. Alaska law prohibits the killing of pups in their dens as part of a predator reduction effort (Regulation 5AAC 92.110(i)) What's more, the state itself advised the Board of Game in January of 2008 that it should reject a proposal that sought to allow killing in the den. So, clearly the state is aware the practice is illegal even as part of a predator control effort. Had this predator control program been scientifically and legally based it would not have been conducted at a time of year when wolves are tending to newly born offspring, making the illegal killing of pups in the den inevitable.
"Over the past year, the state has produced several publications as part of its $400,000 public education campaign designed to inform Alaskans about the facts of its programs. Our scientific and legal review of this information has found similar omissions of critical information including overstating the impact of predation on moose and caribou populations and failing to recognize the importance of other limiting factors. The state's recent omission of important facts regarding its control efforts in its 'public education' materials appears to be clearly intentional and designed to influence the vote on the pending ballot measure regarding the aerial hunting of wolves and bears. One has to wonder if the department tried to keep the killing of these wolf pups under wraps because of the upcoming vote.
"Predator reduction efforts deserve careful scrutiny and justification. The state needs to ban any control efforts during denning season. The state should make sure that any predator reduction programs are legal, justified and conducted ethically. The voters will have another chance to voice their opinion on this issue on August 26. The ballot initiative only restricts the use of airplanes by private hunters. It can't remedy this kind of behavior by department employees, but it is a step in the right direction."
Statement by Tom Banks, Alaska Representative, Defenders of Wildlife