Wolf Song of Alaska News

Aerial Hunting Measure Back on the Ballot

Lori Tipton / KTUU-TV / August 15, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska-- Citizens have voted to ban aerial wolf hunting twice but the issue is back.

Ballot measure 2 says private citizens will no longer be allowed to kill animals from airplanes in order to boost low moose and caribou populations.

Those pushing for a "no vote" argue that Alaska needs a healthy predator-prey relationship and aerial shooting provides that.

Those that are backing the measure say it is an attack on traditional hunting values.

Herds represent a precious natural resource that some say needs to be protected from predators. But how that should happen is up for debate.

The decision will be left up to voters casting their ballot for a bill amending same day airborne shooting.

Valerie Connor, the interim director at the Alaska Center for the Environment, says they have partnered with the group Alaskans for Wildlife in support of the ballot measure.

"We believe in a balanced approach to wildlife management so we are encouraging our members to vote yes on ballot measure 2," said Connor.

The group claims it values the state's wildlife and hunting traditions and is opposed to aerial hunting.

Jennifer Yuhas with Alaskans for Professional Wildlife Management, is pushing for the "no" vote against measure 2.

"We don't have aerial hunting in Alaska. You cannot find a permit for aerial hunting," said Yuhas.

She says private citizens can obtain a permit to help assist Fish and Game with aerial predator management although it is not considered hunting.

Connor claims it is hunting.

"I think that when you take private citizens and give them permission to kill animals from an airplane with their own guns and their own equipment and then harvest the pelts from the animal, that looks like hunting to me," said Connor.

Connor says her group is not opposed to predator management but finds airborne shooting unethical and not "fair chase."

Yuhas says "fair chase" is not the issue.

"This is about giving a moose a break. Predator management is never pretty. But this is the most humane method available to us," said Yuhas.

If the bill is passed it will not prohibit Fish and Game from managing predators.

It would only allow aerial shooting if there is a biological emergency, which Yuhas says is not clearly defined in the ballot measure.

"It's poorly worded, it's disingenuous, it's being sold as supporting the department when it's really hamstringing the department," she said.

The Department of Fish and Game has implemented aerial predator management programs to just a handful of sub units across the state, but Connor argues that there is no real science behind Fish and Game's decision on where those programs should be put into place.

"There's no real proven science behind what the carrying capacity of the land is and what the ratio ultimately should be to achieve the goals of artificially boosting caribou and moose numbers," said Connor.

The only thing both sides seem to agree upon is that the moose and caribou population should be protected but continue to disagree on how to do so.

Measure 2 also applies to grizzly bears and wolverines. 

If measure two passes, it will still remain legal to trap and hunt wolves on foot or by snowmachine, which is how a large majority are being killed now.

This is the third time there's been a statewide vote on this issue.

The other votes were in 1996 and 2000, both against aerial shooting.

The first vote was overwhelmingly against the issue and the second vote was a very strong majority.

However, the state Legislature overturned both of those decisions.
Contact Lori Tipton at ltipton@ktuu.com

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